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Build-a-Bear Workshop Package Art
Neko Entertainment
The Game Factory

Build-a-Bear Workshop

We think of games in "classic" genres like action and adventure, but long ago video games were mainly of kids. So while we shove aside today's games that are strictly aimed at a young target, they aren't automatically inferior. Problem is, they usually are inferior, and Build-a-Bear Workshop follows suit.


As kids games should be, Build-a-Bear has plenty of over-the-top color and life. The houses and sets are fitting for the subject and should please the kids. The bears themselves are 3D, but also a little pixilated and feel generally fake. The activities players engage in do little to allow any emotion out of the animals, and it's hard to get much of a connection to the virtual teddy bears the way kids can love real ones.


Rather than a bear, I made my best friend a bunny. Aptly named "Bunny," I was disappointed that out of the box my bunny didn't have a bunny-like noise to attach to him, unlike the other animals. That aside, the background tunes are nicely upbeat and expectedly forgettable, and they won't annoy parents in the car. This isn't the kind of game that is heavy on the sound effects, so what's there is done well enough. You can safely keep the volume up.


It must be one of the few video games based on a retail store -- I can only imagine how Spencer's: The Game might play. It starts with a Santa's workshop-like trip to the factory. Players first construct a bear (or a different animal, if you prefer bunnies, for example) by stuffing, dressing and otherwise giving "life" to the creation. But since a trip to one store in a mall might not make for the best video game experience, Build-a-Bear takes a slightly more fanciful approach from this point on. Just like when you were little, when you played with stuffed animals and pretended they were real, the game treats your animal like it's real.

Build-a-Bear brings you to your animal's house, where you can have a little dinner or play a few games. None of these minigames are particularly fun, and most kids will become impatient with the overall slow pace. The cooking game, for example, is quite complex without the computer walking players through the steps. Musical Chairs is controlled pretty well with the touch screen, but is excruciatingly slow on the easier difficulty levels -- levels that must be played to unlock the harder sections. The honey drop minigame is probably the best of the bunch, and it's worse than most of the free games kids can find online at very kid-friendly websites.

The touch screen controls are precise, at least, and kids shouldn't have any problem maneuvering through the game. Build-a-Bear's best asset, however, is the number of outfits available for the animals. Still, it will be hard for kids to have any attachment to a digital creation that does little to interact with the player. Dragging your bear around the screen in rather simplistic games just doesn't cut it.


Players can trade outfits and play together in minigames through local wireless play, but in what is a consistently bad choice among developers and publishers of these kid games, both players must own a copy of the game. I will never understand why many of the more mainstream DS games out there allow single card play, while niche games like Build-a-Bear do not.


There is a slight cuteness factor in Build-a-Bear Workshop, but it doesn't approach what kids would get out of a trip to the store. It does come at a discounted $20 price, but parents would be better served by taking their kids to the mall and using the money on the real thing.

final score 5.0/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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