Time to come clean.
I would like to tell you that I selected That's So Raven to review becuase I was honestly curious about how Vicarious Visions and Disney Interactive had translated the tweeneriffic television series to the GBA. I cannot say that, because it is a bold-faced lie.
I chose That's So Raven because I looked forward to writing a vicious, evil review of it. I was excited about ripping apart a subpar GBA product. I thought that would be fun. I also yearned to get a few digs in against a Disney Channel icon I hate muchly, the "artist" formerly known as Raven-Symone. Back in her two-names-plus-dash days, she was the last cute kid on The Cosby Show. Many years and hundreds of pounds later, she grates on me like ten thousand fingernails on ten thousand chalkboards.
As I played That's So Raven, however, I lost my moxie for meanness. It suddenly occurred to me that although it would be easy (and some would say, my JOB) to honestly reveal and then savagely mock each flaw in this title, it's a pointless endeavor. It's pointless becuase this game is not for me, and it's not for you. Unless you are a girl between the ages of 9 and 13, or the kind of creepy sick older dude who really REALLY loves Raven.
Is that wrong of me to say? Is it dismissive of my responsibilites as a game reviewer? I dunno, but I know it's all true.
And honestly, did you come here to read about how the delicate nuances of the television show fare on the GBA, or were YOU hoping I was gonna rip this game a new one in an entertaining way? I'm betting the latter. Don't feel bad; heck, I should feel horrific for picking up this game and hoping for the worst solely for the sake of many cheap funny jokes.
Fine. If you read the IMDB trivia section on Raven, you'll learn that when she was a celebrity guest on The Weakest Link, she didn't know what the "P.O." in P.O. Box stands for. She also claimed that half of 1,000 is 100.
There. Cheap and funny. Happy now?
The levels involve a lot of hunting and collecting, although there's one early in the game that's actually a stealth level, in which you have to sneak down a hallway without being seen by the hall monitors. (Take THAT, Metal Gear!) Mostly you avoid the obstacles placed in your path, although you do have a few options for stopping them. You can swing at projectiles with your purse, you can throw water on the floor to block moving obstacles, and you can squirt perfume at "enemies" approaching you. All of these obstacles are firmly in keeping with the tone of the show, including the school principal who you must avoid because when he talks, he spits in your face.
The controls all worked fine and responded well. B spins your purse, L throws water, R throws perfume. It would have been nice if one of the attacks were wired to the A button, which is used primarily to scroll through text. That's probably too complicated for a game like this, so the simplicity of the controls definitely works.
As a game, That's So Raven is mind-numbingly boring. There's not a whole lot to worry about in the way of obstacles, and it's all pretty repetitive. It also seemed like a very easy and short game to me. It took me maybe twenty minutes and one try each to blow through the first few levels. This is perfectly in line with the game's audience; they're not looking for a side-scrolling challenge, or five thrills a minute. They want to see Raven on their GBA, and they get that. Plenty of it.
But you knew this. You could have guessed it just from hearing the title in passing. This is no surprise. It's a licensed title based on a Disney Channel live-action series; its greatness would have come as a far greater shock than its bland okayness.
At the same time, you also know that the reason you wouldn't like this game isn't because it's not very good. You would never like this game becuase you are not a tweenager in the year 2004. If you are one, and you are a Raven fan, go out and buy this, becuase you will probably have a good time. If you know a tweenager, and you must buy this tweenager gifts, That's So Raven should go on the list.
I am torn about all this, because I do not know if I believe it's okay for a game like this to be not so good. I don't know if I'd feel better if That's So Raven were a surprisingly fun or smart side-scroller, something that could please fans of the genre even as it thrills the tweens. I don't know that it matters. I know I believe children's movies should be good movies and childrens TV shows should be good TV shows, but a video game is a solitary experience that we all embark on for the most part alone. No one but a kid has to really play this game, except for the occasional twisted reviewer like myself. So in some sense, it should be for just them, and not designed to appeal to them and the gamer masses at the same time. To do that would lessen the experience for both.
If we can agree that That's So Raven is not good and that it does not need to be good, then we must ask simply what effect it will have on its audience. In other words, will it damage tweens to play That's So Raven?
Of course not. Will it uplift them, enlighten them, get them excited about video games, or open their eyes to anything but that which they already knew, which is the coolness of Raven? Nope. It won't do any of those things. It won't even come close. Part of me thinks that's a shame, and part of me doesn't care, because part of me thinks that's not what a game like this is really about.
Let me illustrate with a personal nostalgic anecdote. When I was a kid, I was a Transformers maniac. I wanted all the toys and owned many of them. In my constant quest to scratch my "More than Meets the Eye" itch, I bought and read about twelve issues of the Transformers comic book.
This comic book was not good literature. It wasn't even a good comic book. I loved it anyway. I was a tweenager at the time.
That's what tweenagers do: They like things. That these things are good or bad is irrelevant to them. They judge based solely on their individual, internal tween radar. It's an endlessly forgiving mechanism on constant alert for stuff that's either "cute" or "cool," or both.
That's So Raven would probably set off the average tweenager's internal radar. For proof, one need look no further than Amazon.Com's That pretty much says it all right there. If you know a tweenager, buy That's So Raven for her. Purchase it knowing it's an average-at-best side-scroller that might seem ridiculously easy even to a child. She'll probably still like it. It's got Raven in it. She likes Raven.
That pretty much says it all right there. If you know a tweenager, buy That's So Raven for her. Purchase it knowing it's an average-at-best side-scroller that might seem ridiculously easy even to a child.
She'll probably still like it. It's got Raven in it. She likes Raven.