If you have ever been to a mall then you have likely seen the tumbling cylinder of fluffy goodness that makes up the innards of a Build-A-Bear. These shops are famous across the country in that they give children (and adults) the ability to create their very own custom stuffed friend. When I first heard that The Game Factory – who specializes in making games for a younger demographic – was releasing a game based on the popular franchise the first thing that came to mind was; what a great idea! Anyone who has ever partaken in the ritual of Build-A-Bear knows that aside from being a special event it is also hard on the wallet. With this DS title your kids can create, customize, and enjoy thousands of combinations all for the low price on one cartridge. While it isn’t quite the same it is still a truly unique experience that kids will absolutely love.
The game begins much like an experience at the actual Build-A-Bear Workshop. You get to choose from up to eight different templates including Dimples Teddy, Friendly Frog, Marvelous Monkey, Sassy Kitty, and a host of others. From here you will stuff your creation, give it a sound box, choose a motto, and even give it its own heart. Top this off with the ability to whisper your own personal secret into its ear via the DS microphone and you have a very personalized experience that kids will absolutely adore.
You can also customize your creation with over 100 different items and clothing accessories some of which are available from the outset while others can be unlocked by playing one of four different mini-games. These items range from clothing such as overalls to vanity items such as a pair of shades. While I consider myself a veteran gamer and lover of anything with guns and aliens, it is hard not to simply spout “awww” at the site of some of these different outfits. The experience is extremely personal and amazingly tailored to give younger gamers a sense of accomplishment and individuality to their creation.
Once your fuzzy friend is completed you will be tossed into the main hub of the game known as the Cub Condo. Here you have access to four separate areas each with their own activities that players can use to meet the needs of their virtual friend or simply try to unlock new items and accessories. For instance the kitchen is one of the first stops you will want to make to prepare some food for your newly found friend. Here you will find a series of mini-games that are simple enough for even the youngest gamer. Next up is the dressing room, which as you can imagine plays host to fitting your character with different attire. You can also snap photos of your creation and share them with friends wirelessly who also own the game.
The garden is where you can interact with your pal by drawing simple tricks for them using the stylus. The actions are simple and kids will likely get addicted to the different action their animal can perform. Finally the attic is almost like a second hub area where you can revisit most of the activities found earlier in the game. This is also where the multi-player portion of the game takes place. Most of the mini-games take advantage of touch screen activity and are simple enough, but it also must be noted that all of these are designed with very young children in mind so if you are looking for a challenge then you obviously bought the wrong game.
Multi-player works rather well and does actually require that both players own a copy of the game. While the mini-games could have easily been handled via game-sharing the big hook here is the ability to trade photos and clothing items wirelessly with friends. The experience lends itself well and gives kids a chance to see some different items and creations from their friends. The mini-games will occupy for a while but with only four to choose from it will grow tedious fast. While there is plenty of room for improvement what is here is addictive and well presented for the demographic that it is aimed at. You can not go wrong with Build-A-Bear Workshop if you have younger children who enjoy having loads of fun.
It is rare for us to see a title of this nature with so much thought and heart put behind it. Visually the game is colorful and certainly doesn’t push the boundaries of the DS, but it is simplistic in design and easy to navigate which is imperative when aiming a game at young kids. No one does it quite like The Game Factory when it comes to these types of games and Build-A-Bear is easily their finest work yet. Sounds are pretty much non-existent so you will want to make sure your child has basic reading skills or simply play it with them. I guarantee you will not be able to resist the cuteness this game delivers and who knows, you may end up enjoying it as much as they do.
Build-A-Bear Workshop is a unique and innovative title that executes what it sets out to do marvelously. The interface is simple yet intuitive, the visuals are bright and appealing, and the premise is simply too cute for words. If you have a young one who loves the idea of creating their own fuzzy friend there is no reason to pass this one up. With so many titles out there aimed at kids it is hard to figure out which ones are actually worth checking out and which ones are quick cash-ins. If you are looking for the perfect game for your young one this holiday season there are few titles more appropriate or better designed than Build-A-Bear Workshop.