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Disney DVD Game World: Disney Dogs Edition Review

Buy Disney DVD Game World: Disney Dogs Edition

Disney DVD Game World:
Disney Dogs Edition -
Blue Ribbon Challenge


1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release Date: December 5, 2006
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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As a reviewer of DVDs, I'm required to report on all the bonus features that every subject offers. That includes the set-top games that accompany many an animated Disney feature on disc. While other critics may shrug off DVD games as kiddie fare worth mentioning but not describing, I always give them the benefit of the doubt. At best, most set-top games offer mild diversion; more often, they frustrate with poor, limited design, methodical pacing, and little payoff. Alas, these games are almost always intended for an audience younger and more easily amused than you and I.

For a pair of new DVDs released this month that are nothing more than elaborate games, Disney has avoided many of the limitations inherent to set-top activities and modeled the line on something more enduring, more widely appealing, and a lot more fun: the board game. The company's video branch Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) last dabbled in a game-only release three years ago, with Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures, a board game which relied on DVD for most of gameplay.
While BVHE has subsequently issued a couple of volumes of set-top-activity-driven discs called Disney Princess Party, nothing resembling a board game has come until now. Judging from the slow follow-up, Island of Adventures probably wasn't as popular as other DVD-based games, such as Screenlife's rapidly-growing line "Scene It?" (of which there is a Disney version).

Last fall, a number of Disney DVDs promoted two DVD board games from BVHE -- titled Disney's Princess Fantasy and Disney Channel Showdown -- which never came to fruition. Now, arriving thirteen months after the previously-announced release date is Disney DVD Game World, a more emphatically branded line which makes the board in board game purely digital. While the Disney Princess Edition can be assumed to derive from the unreleased Princess Fantasy, the Disney Channel flavor has been dropped (at least for now) in favor of Disney Dogs Edition. Disney Dogs seems to have been spawned by the bonuses of last February's Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition, as elements of the Virtual Puppy DVD-ROM feature are recycled here, as is the general design behind virtual board game "Disney Dog Trivia." Standing on its own, this release naturally offers a lot more than even two good interactive supplements would.

Players choose one of these four Disney puppies to represent them in "Disney DVD Game World: Disney Dogs Edition." Hey, how did Copper wander into "Oliver & Company"?


Subtitled "Blue Ribbon Challenge", Disney Dogs Edition accommodates 1 to 4 players in one of two different levels: Family Mode and Collectors Mode (applying those short-sighted supplement-organizing tags to "puppies" and "pedigrees").
In either mode, each player chooses from puppies which resemble young versions of Copper, Pluto, Pongo, and Tramp. (Pongo's counterpart has eyelashes, suggesting a lone female character; regardless, the game is far more unisex than the girl-oriented Princess Edition.) Gameplay proceeds with each player virtually spinning to determine how many spaces (1-4) they'll move and where they'll end up. As is common for board games, some spins end in an ability-testing activity, some toss you a pre-ordained immediate action, and some (the most boring ones) do absolutely nothing. The object of the game is to collect ribbons, which are, of course, accrued by successfully completing challenges and just plain lucking out. Five blue ribbons convert to one gold ribbon; earning three gold ribbons makes you "Best in Show", a.k.a. the winner.

Players travel through worlds inspired by The Fox and the Hound, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Oliver & Company, and the Disney parks' Toontown. Each land offers its own thematic music and flat versions of characters from the world turn up around the game path. If you stop next to benign characters like Mickey Mouse, Dalmatian pups, or Tony (Tramp's jolly restaurateur), you are treated to something fun. If you land by villains, it's not so much fun; "Pegleg" Pete and Sykes take ribbons, while Cruella De Vil and the Dogcatcher also make trouble.

The DVD's cover boasts that Disney Dogs Edition serves up over 1200 trivia questions and mini-games. While I'm sure that number includes minor variations within activities, I can safely declare that the four times I played this game, I did not encounter anything close to all that this disc has to offer (a rarity for the types of reviews we do here at UltimateDisney.com!). Among the different types of activities served up are visual puzzles (identifying mixed-up characters and those being drawn), three-cup monte (you gamble with tokens; bet big, it's very easy), and a repeat-the-pattern deal with Tod the fox ΰ la Simon, the popular '80s electronic game. There's also a lot of trivia, most of it fairly challenging for even those well-versed in Disney films. Some questions deal with quotes or specific events, others follow a sound-less film clip (which is not necessarily very relevant to the question). All, of course, are multiple choice, and some reward speed. The ultimate trivia rush comes upon landing on the Dogcatcher's spot, in which you must answer 10 questions correctly in a row -- it's next to impossible until you have played enough to memorize all the answers; I don't think I got more than 3 right in succession. The most you can earn from any given activity is three blue ribbons, though on most, you're lucky to pick up one.

The longer you wait, the easier the question gets but the less ribbons you'll earn... Unscramble the picture and identify the character before time runs out. This is the type of question you find in the Family Mode.


Disney's animation obviously gets the focus in the game's design, but the studio's live action fare gets a pleasantly surprising amount of attention too, especially in the collectors version, but also significantly in the family version. Among the movies that I encountered references to are The Absent Minded Professor, Alice in Wonderland, The Aristocats, Big Red, The Biscuit Eater, Chicken Little, The Fox and the Hound, Greyfriars Bobby, Homeward Bound and its sequel Lost in San Francisco, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Incredible Journey, Lady and the Tramp, Little Dog Lost, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, My Dog The Thief, 101 Dalmatians, Old Yeller, Peter Pan, Savage Sam, the original Shaggy Dog, Snow Dogs,
Those Calloways, The Three Lives of Thomasina, The Ugly Dachshund, White Fang. Clearly, some movies with canines as secondary characters still get asked about, and some that would seem obviously relevant (like Teacher's Pet) do not. There are also questions about a number of Pluto shorts, which would appear to be demanding of one's memory but tend to be a little less difficult. Are children going to be familiar with live action '60s movies that aren't widely available (if at all) on DVD or Pluto cartoons by title?

There is a noticeable but not extreme difference between the Collectors and Family play modes. I am happy to report that the Collectors Mode is truly quite challenging for Disney aficionados, which is nice for a change. But, unfortunately, I think it goes a little too far; questions about canine actors and which animator did a particular gag in a specific Pluto short are things that no player is likely to give anything more than an educated guess. For all the easy Disney trivia games out there, this one makes even hardcore fans feel lacking in some ways. Still, I guess that's a welcome break from tradition for us, those who visit or contribute to a site devoted to everything Disney. Honestly, even the Family version should be plenty challenging to many serious Disney fans. Those with light general knowledge about Disney films are likely to be frustrated by anything that's not a visual challenge and may take Disney up on the 100% Fun Guarantee (more on that later). And it's worth pointing out that ultimately, no matter how much knowledge of Disney films you have in your head, chance determines more, and regular guessing is inevitable.

Guess what character is being drawn - the dalmatian spots may have given this one away. What, like Scott Baio couldn't have done it?! Follow Tod's pattern...or try to and fail miserably.


As good as this all may sound in theory, there are a number of shortcomings encountered when actually playing. The biggest is that the game takes a while to transition from the board to the question and from player to player. While slowness is determined by a matter of seconds, multiple them by the number of turns in an individual game, and it's considerable. The tedious load times were experienced on a year-old Sony player, so I suspect they'll be widespread. On a DVD-ROM, they were practically absent, but then a family or group of four is less likely to gather around the computer for a game like this and if they were, the game could have been more elaborate. In addition, both modes of the game are under-narrated, which might be fine in the long run, but makes gameplay slightly challenging at first, even if it's not complicated.
Note that there are some instructions available in the game via the question mark; having grown accustomed to asking for help in DVD set-top games, I missed these for a while, at no great loss. Without the instructions, even after several games, it becomes increasingly unclear whose turn it is and why a player gets to keep moving or not.

Other minor issues worth noting: you must pay attention during other players' turns since activities are only introduced once; correct answers are not revealed if you're wrong, which extends the game's lifetime, but can be frustrating; it's slightly lame how you never see the other player(s) on the board (though admittedly, this may have needlessly complicated things for the game's designers); in Tod's Simon-type game, remembering the pattern doesn't make it easy to win, as something's strange in remote use here; if you leave your turn untended, your character may give you a look that prompts you for action or maybe even take a nap; and finally, at least one question had an answer I know to be wrong (don't tell me I don't know which Coates brother is older).

As a final comment: positively the weirdest movie clip of all is the only one I saw repeated during multiple gameplays; in fact, it turned up in all four run-throughs. It is a scene from The Incredible Journey in which two bears seem to romance an old white dog as squirrels watch. Perhaps the game designers had a sense of humor, as this sequence is sure to inspire some laughter, perhaps punctuated by how random the follow-up question is.

Tricky Dick or Uncle Walt? Decisions, decisions... The clock is tickin'! What are those bears doing to that poor old dog? I don't know, but I had to bear witness to the act every time I played. What, you haven't memorized Don Chaffey's directorial resumι?


Like other video games, Disney Dogs Edition comes with a rating from the ESRB, which is "E - Everyone", though one has to imagine that the bold "Tobacco Reference" claim which accompanies the rating on the back of the package is more embarrassing to the studio than useful for a prospective buyer parent. Unlike most other games, the front of the package reveals a "100% Fun Guarantee", whereas if you decide the disc simply isn't fun within 30 days of your purchase, you can return it and get your money back, so long as you hold onto the receipt.

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PACKAGING and MENUS

This release is packaged like a DVD, in a standard white keepcase. Housed in a slipcover which "opens like a book" to preview the contents, though, its game roots are evident. Inside the case, one should find four inserts; two are merely subscription forms for tot-oriented Disney magazines, one is a form to enter a sweepstakes to "Win a Disney Preschool DVD Library", and the last and most exciting is a code for the Disney Movie Rewards program, which doubles as a coupon for party goods. Just be careful in clipping, as the Rewards program's "magic code" turns up on the back within the dotted lines.

Even DVD games don't escape the obligatory start-of-the-disc sneak peeks. Previewed here are Peter Pan: Platinum Edition (being called, as per tradition, merely a 2-Disc Special Edition), "Little Einsteins": The Legend of the Golden Pyramid, the constantly-promoted-but-still-far-off Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: A Kingdom of Kindness, and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales. The Sneak Peeks menu (the only one aside from "Play") holds additional spots for Meet the Robinsons, The Fox and the Hound 2, Tinker Bell, and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.

Pluto waits in Toontown among his pals for you to virtually spin. This is your prize for reading this review all the way through!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I imagine that most of the people who check out Disney Dogs Edition may find it too difficult and that many Disney aficionados will assume it's strictly for the kids. I'm here to report to the serious Disney fan that this is not true; in fact, the game's expectations (especially in the Collectors Mode) are a little too high. Still, it's nice to have a game that challenges even hardcore Disney fans, when so many (like Disney Scene It?) offer mere cakewalks. While there are definitely some bumps in the road -- the less than fluid gameplay and overly chance-based design are most burdensome -- this DVD game provides a reasonably good time. And there's more to it than most games; a game with two Disney-knowledgeable players took 50-55 minutes in both the Family and Collectors versions (unfortunately, the less qualified player won each time). Happily, while playing the game certainly encourages watching more Disney movies, it's gladly not done in a way which makes the game feel like a commercial for these movies.

For all the hours of reasonable fun that can be had, this is pretty reasonably priced at the cost of a new movie's DVD. This is recommended for those with a definite interest in animated and live action Disney movies and who think they can find family or friends that will share in with it. Furthermore, if you don't like it, hold onto your receipt and you can return the game to Disney for everything you spent. I hope that Disney makes the necessary improvements and brings on a Disney Cats Edition in the future!

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Disney DVD Game World: Disney Princess Edition
The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition • Lady and the Tramp • 101 Dalmatians • Oliver & Company
Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto, Volume 1 • Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 12 - Best Pals: Mickey & Pluto
Old Yeller & Savage Sam: 2-Movie Collection • The Shaggy Dog (1959) • The Shaggy D.A. • The Shaggy Dog (2006)
Greyfriars Bobby • Big Red • My Dog, The Thief • Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 3 - Starring Goofy • Goof Troop: Volume 1 • Snow Dogs • Benji the Hunted
The Ugly Dachshund • Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure • Iron Will • Eight Below • Funny Factory with Goofy
Where the Red Fern Grows • Peter Pan • The Biscuit Eater • Teacher's Pet • White Fang 2 • Sounder
Disney Princess Party: Volume One • Disney Princess Party: Volume Two • Sing Along Songs: Pongo and Perdita
The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition • Alice in Wonderland: Masterpiece Edition • Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition

Reviewed December 3, 2006.