Barbie Race & Ride Review

Barbie Race & Ride playstation box art

The horse riding adventure with Barbie you’ll probably want to skip out on.

Story

Barbie invites you to Secret Valley to take a horseback ride and mentions a secret hidden ranch located somewhere in the vicinity. By searching for pieces of a torn post card, you may be able to locate the secret ranch and visit it. What surprises await in this merry day out?

The Game

Barbie Race and Ride is a horse riding game featuring the famous toy Barbie character. The game itself is an adventure game that has both puzzle, exploration and sports elements. Not surprisingly the game is aimed at a young female audience – sporting the sorry “Software for Girls” logo on the title screen.

The game is played mostly from a first person perspective, where Barbie acts as your guide in everything you do. Most of the activities you can take part in has sadly no meaning nor function in the game.

Controls

The controls are quite unresponsive and generally poor. Because the game relies heavily on pre-rendered 3D graphics it feels as if the game plays itself. Your inputs are delayed and the game is sluggish overall. Thankfully the mini games do play a bit better and actually resemble real, interactive games.

Content

The game starts you off at Barbie’s stables. The first thing you do once you’re in the game is to pick which horse you want to have as your own. There are four differently colored horses to select from with slightly different personalities. Little does it matter which one you pick to ride – they all play exactly the same. You get to name it from a list of available names such as “Beauty”, “Blaze” and “Star”. Barbie can then give the horse compliments and call it by its name.

Once you’ve selected which horse you fancy you can choose to either go out for a ride, wash or feed your horse or put on the riding equipment. Putting on the riding equipment on the horse consists of three simple steps, and Barbie is sure to instruct you about which order you should do it. This does not make any difference in the game however as you do not need to put on the saddle and bridle if you don’t want to – it happens automatically once you select to go out for a ride.

Furthermore you can select to feed your horse with apples, sugar, carrots or strawberries. Here you’ll see Barbie pick the selected food and feed it to the horse. Once again, there is no function or meaning of doing this, so it feels totally redundant.

When washing the horse you first get to cover it with soapy water and then dry it off. You can also brush its hair and tail – again, but none of this has any function in the game. Your horse can not get dirty nor can it get any cleaner than it already is.

Washing the horse turns out to be a meaningless activity.

Washing the horse turns out to be a meaningless activity.

To begin with there are four different trails to ride on in Secret Valley, and you get to pick which one you want do take; The Meadows, The Beach, The Redwood Forest or The Mountain trail. Once the trip starts you’ll notice that the entire landscape in the game is pre-rendered 3D and the control you have over your horse is very limited – you can only pan slightly to the left or right, and you can jump over obstacles that lie on the trail. The whole riding sequence is practically a video clip that plays in the background, programmed so that if you press the jump button when the obstacle is close you get to continue – otherwise the video clip stops playing until you press the jump button. This is especially notable when your riding on the beach, and the entire sea will pause to a stand still if your horse stands still.

You can also slightly adjust how fast you want to ride, or rather, how fast you want the video clip to play.

On each trail you will encounter various animals and insects in their natural domain. Barbie will ask you to stop at each animal you encounter, and you will then be able to interact with that animal – either making it sound or jump around. These animal encounters are also totally meaningless and serves no purpose other than obscuring the puzzle games that can be played at each trail.

Somewhere along each trail, there is a puzzle game. Like with the animal encounters Barbie will notify you when you approach them.

For example, there’s one where you lay puzzle pieces together to form an image and another one where you’re guiding a hare through a series of holes in the snow. In order to find a piece of the post card you’re looking for, you need to clear all four puzzles in the game at least once and all the puzzles are very easy.

Other than animals and puzzles you can partake in race courses and obstacle courses at some point along the trail. During the race courses you’re competing against one of Barbie’s friends in a side-scrolling race. Various obstacles are placed on the ground so you must jump over them in order to win the race. You can race how many times you want but it makes no difference whether you win or lose.

The obstacle courses however, are played from the same first person perspective as the trail riding sequences, but here you’ll see a clock timing you how fast you can get around the course. The challenge lies in dodging and jumping over obstacles, and since you can basically run at max speed through these courses without any difficulty it isn’t very rewarding nor is it exciting. At the end of the stage there is a score table that saves your best time, so that you can compare your records with other players.

Upon finding all the four pieces of the post card from the Secret Ranch, you get to pick the Secret Ranch route as a trail to ride on. This trail is much like the four previous ones, with animal encounters and one mini game. Barbie tells you that there is a surprise at the end of the trail, and that’s where the grand finale of the game takes place. The whole game can be beaten in just under an hour, so there’s really not much going for it. The game allows you to keep playing even after beating the Secret Ranch trail so there is really no end to the game.

The game sports a two player mode, but it is perhaps the worst two player option we’ve seen. It basically just allows you to select between two different player profiles before going on each trip.

barbieraceandride3Barbie as a character is overly talkative and is portrayed as a delusional person in this game. Whether you just saw a frog jump on a water lily leaf or a bunch of fireflies in the forest she will exclaim how incredibly fun it was. Furthermore she will have comments on just about everything that happens in the game, mostly of which just tells you how much fun she’s having. As a player you won’t be able to have as much fun as Barbie says she’s having in this game.

Barbie Race & Ride fails to entertain mostly because it doesn’t give the player any meaningful choices or actions. But that’s not the only problem this game has. There are numerous technical issues too, such as the game being chopped up between hundreds of loading sequences that effectively destroys the little enjoyment that this game could have given kids who love Barbie. Barbie’s speech also has some glitches which are sure to confuse kids playing the game.

Another problem is that everything in the game is so slow. There are numerous uncalled-for pauses and slow sequences such as when Barbie mounts and gets off her horse. The overall slow pace in the game will probably leave you frustrated – and you can’t skip any of it either!

Graphics

As mentioned above, most of this game consists of pre-rendered 3D backdrops, and they are grainy and rather blurry. The environments vary from downright ugly to non-inspiring and bland. There are some scenes that invoke a nice atmosphere, but there’s just not enough of that to uplift the overall experience. The animation is slow and awkward most of the time. The game looks best during its mini games, because that’s where the visuals rely more on drawn sprites and more detailed pre-rendered 3D objects. But even then the game doesn’t really look any appealing.

Sound

The in game music isn’t very good either. The best part of the game are the environmental sounds that can be heard during the various routes. They do an okay job in capturing the feeling of the nature, but the sound from your horse’s hooves distracts all harmony because its basically the same one second sample looping over and over again.

Summary

Barbie Race & Ride is a torture to play. It’s not the least entertaining – not even if you love Barbie and horse riding. The fact that the main bulk of content can be covered in just under one hour makes this game a horrible choice of game for just about anyone. The only enjoyment that can be had from this is that if you’ve invited a few friends over and want to laugh at a truly bad game.

Developed By: Runecraft
Published By: Mattel
Version Reviewed: Playstation
Genre: Adventure / Puzzle
Players: 1-2
Released: 1999-11-29

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