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Hannah Montana DVD Game Review

Buy Hannah Montana DVD Game from Amazon.com

Hannah Montana DVD Game:
Sing • Dance • Act • Play


1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (1.33:1 Fullscreen on 4:3 TVs)
Dolby Stereo (English); Not Subtitled, Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase with Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Producer: MusicAndBrands

Buy from Amazon.com

Whether you think of it as a DVD-based game or a game-based DVD, Hannah Montana DVD Game lets Disney bring its multi-million dollar tween girl franchise to yet another new platform this week. This actually isn't the first Hannah Montana DVD game;
Mattel released one last year, but it featured a standard game board, pieces, and cards. Retailers stock it with other board games. This new game, on the other hand, is distributed by Disney's home entertainment division, who is advertising it, packaging it, and releasing it like any other ordinary DVD.

It's the studio's latest attempt to prove there is a market for DVD gaming. They first tried in 2003 with Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures. The 2004-05 season brought two volumes of Disney Princess Party, packaged more like a DVD of general fun than the collection of set-top games they were. They were soon forgotten, like practically everything else in that flimsy, pink girl's line. Another elaborate effort was made with the Christmastime 2006 release of Disney DVD Game World virtual board games in Disney Dogs and Disney Princess flavors. With Amazon.com sales ranks currently in the 50,000 range, I don't think either of those quite caught on as intended.

Disney isn't the only studio that's tested these waters. Despite featuring one of today's most popular properties, Warner Bros. didn't fare any better with its 2007 release, Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game: Hogwarts Challenge.

Smaller companies might have given up, conceding that between PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, GameCube, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP, Game Boy Advance, and computers, the general population is sufficiently supplied as far as video games go. But in Tuesday's releases, Disney demonstrates impressive resilience.

Your dream has come true. A Hannah Montana Trivia Challenge. There's no turning back now. (Unless you choose Go Back.) Look, it's a goofy Hannah Montana show clip! Be prepared to answer a question that doesn't directly pertain to it.

The releases also illustrate the company's firm contemporary belief in the power of tweens. This demographic made a little 3-D Hannah Montana concert movie the unprecedented sum of $65 million earlier this year. The same demographic, skewing slightly older, has paid over $80 million domestically and nearly $200 million worldwide to see High School Musical 3: Senior Year in theaters, a sequel which followed two basic cable movies. Those two lucrative Disney Channel "H" franchises are the understandable subjects of the studio's newest push for DVD games.

Subtitled Sing • Dance • Act • Play, the Hannah Montana DVD Game does provide opportunities for each of these activities.
But for carrying the same list price as a new feature film, it delivers less than expected. (And actually, light discounting makes this more expensive than all four DVD and Blu-ray versions of this week's more notable interpunctual Disney release, WALL•E.) Found here are one main game (a show Trivia Challenge), seven shorter and more varied activities, and three team games for groups of 4 or more.

You start out by choosing one of six "Hannah Montana" characters to represent you: Hannah Montana (played by Miley Cyrus), Miley Stewart (also played by Miley Cyrus), Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment), Oliver Oken (Mitchel Musso), Jackson Stewart (the age-defying Jason Earles), and Mr. Robby Ray Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus). They're there to identify you and to distinguish you from other players. The disc is hosted by Emily Osment (Lilly) in a lively audio-only performance.

Will you be able to resist choosing the funny answer? Will you?! They say a picture is worth a thousand words. One of those words might land you the right answer. What, no Joey Fatone option?

"Main Game", the Trivia Challenge, consists of 20 multiple choice questions. Some ask you to match a quote with the character who said it. Others quiz you on an episode's plot. Still others show you a video clip from the show and then proceed to ask you a question that can't be answered by paying attention to the clip alone. If you've seen every episode of "Hannah Montana" (#58 debuted last week) and remember them in detail, you shouldn't have much difficulty with the questions. If you are only somewhat familiar with it (as I would describe myself), you can still fare okay by the process of elimination and by simply putting yourself into the mindset of unimaginative kiddie sitcom writers.

The trivia game can be played with 1-4 players, each taking a turn to answer the same question. With stealthy remote control handling, your response can be kept secret; the screen doesn't make note which of the direction keys you've pushed. You're immediately told if you're right or wrong. Probably to extend the disc's value, right answers aren't revealed after each player has played. I can't think of any reason why you're not given a total out-of-20 score at the end. A winner is declared and standings are suggested every five questions. But basic DVD quizzes have been more useful at grading players. With two players, the game took 16 minutes. With just one, it still took about 13. Making up the majority of that time are the video clips used for questions and the transitions from one question or screen to another. The latter take as long as choosing an episode from a DVD's menu; it's only a handful of seconds, but when you're doing this again and again, it adds up. Still, the gameplay is a little smoother than it was on the more complex Disney DVD Game World titles.

Girls Birthday Party Supplies

The other games have an average maximum entertainment value of about 5-10 minutes for 2 players. All but two of them can be enjoyed by just a single player.

Follow the "Dance Off" steps without throwing up and you're rewarded with only a "Phew, that was fun." The Seeing Stars Memory Game tests your ability to remember the line-up order of 9 forgettable characters. Pop Star is strictly karaoke. Notice how Hannah Montana's lyrics take new meaning with age. Two years ago, the question was uttered with excitement. Today, it's seriously asking, "Was that Orlando Bloom?"

"Dance Off" divides 8 Hannah Montana tunes across three skill levels, giving you the chance to get up and follow along. It can be played with or without directions. On the former, a grid with moving footprints seems to confuse more than help.

"Seeing Stars Memory Game" simply tests your ability to remember the positions of young characters in a 9-person "Brady Bunch"-style locker line-up. It's not bad.

"Keep the Beat" is one of the only one exercises requiring a group (or being told there is a group) to play. It is also just about the only one you'll need to listen to directions on beforehand. Without instructions, you may think this is just a clap-along to Queen's "We Will Rock You" that never kicks in. Instead, it's a 3-speed word association task where players have to name items that fit an established subject. Many of the topics pertain firmly to the show (Hannah Montana songs, celebrity cameos), while others (items you'd bring to the beach) do not. This has the most fun potential of anything on the disc, even (and perhaps especially) if you're not playing by the rules.

"Pop Star" is plain old karaoke. You get to choose from 7 Hannah Montana songs; each one is treated to a 2-minute excerpt with lit-up lyrics being displayed in front of a boring microphone graphic.

This activity is "Band Audition." I remember the days we called repeating lit-up color sequences "Simon." Figure out what character you're most like with the first of three Personality Quizzes. I don't even have to think about this one! Is it just me, or does this "True Friends" pairing seem perfect for a box of cereal?

"Band Audition" is like Milton Bradley's good ole' Simon game. Here, you repeat a series of drum moves, but really the idea is the same; a memory-testing sequence of colors and sounds.

"Personality Quiz" serves up three 10-question quizzes that are the same every time. They'll tell you what "Hannah Montana" character you're most like, what type of superstar you'll grow up to be, and what school group you belong to. "Group", not "clique", and you'll notice other such euphemisms like "Whiz Kid" for "Nerd."

"True Friends" has you guessing how your friend would answer five questions. Your guesses are immediately put to the test. Obviously, this one requires two players. Like "Personality", these questions are a bit girl-oriented and maintain a "Hannah Montana" theme.

Designated "Party Play", the last three activities are geared towards 2 teams ("Super Fans", "Pop Stars") of 2 or more players. The idea and execution is more or less the same, as one player has to clue his or her teammates to an assigned word or phrase. "Say Whaat?" lets you verbally describe your assignment without saying three key words. "Art Class" has you drawing your assignment. "Hellooo Drama!", better known as "Charades", makes you silently act it out. On these activities, you can choose 5, 10, or 15 rounds and set the time limit to 20, 30, or 45 seconds. All of the terms and concepts refer to things from the show or its shallow settings. With the "Mix It Up" option, you'll bounce around all three Party Play modes.

Of the three Party Play games, "Say Whaat?" is most like Catchphrase. If Catchphrase were made for 8-year-old girls. If you don't heed directions, you probably will just be clapping along confusedly to this "Keep the Beat" screen. Four is the magic number of players to having a fully accessible Game Selection Menu.

VIDEO, AUDIO, MENUS & PACKAGING

Would you believe that Disney let the Hannah Montana DVD Game reach stores in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen? This is the same Disney that wouldn't dare release its Disney Channel Original Movies in 16:9 (despite them being framed for them). Fear not, black bar haters, the DVD is encoded so that it will fill standard 4:3 television sets.
Those watching on widescreen displays merely get some extra (unnecessary and sparsely-used) width. The case claims the DVD is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well, but I don't believe it. The disc tells Power DVD it's two-channel, and that's all it sounded like to me. Either way, I'm sure an overwhelming majority of players won't notice or care. Picture and sound are fine, or at least as fine as the low-budget cable production will allow them to be.

The menu gives an overview of directions and more in-depth instructions are offered through a "How to Play" listing. "Credits" takes us to 20 seconds of credits and a 15-second logo for the DVD's producer MusicAndBrands. Pause is disabled throughout the whole DVD and those with players that resume play won't be able to do so here. That's too bad, because forgoing all the previews, FBI warnings, and explanatory chatter would have been welcomed. The good news is that most of the games can be left unattended and returned to, so long as your player remains powered on.

There is only one Disney...general promo that opens the disc. Then come the trailers for Pinocchio: Platinum Edition, Bolt, The Cheetah Girls: One World, "Hannah Montana": The Complete First Season, this DVD game and the High School Musical one, and Disney Movie Rewards. Though this is the type of DVD you could easily see forgoing a Sneak Peeks menu, it's there, holding all of these and additional previews for High School Musical 2, Space Buddies, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Special Edition, "Wizards of Waverly Place", and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

At a passing glimpse, the holographically slipcovered package could easily be mistaken for another "Hannah Montana" episode compilation DVD or even the Complete First Season set that arrives in stores alongside this. Two things that clue you in to the contrary are the large, multiple DVD Game designations and the "E" Everyone rating by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). Inside the case, one finds a combination Blu-ray ad/Disney Movie Rewards code booklet, a 6-page booklet of instructions, and a mini-booklet advertising a variety of Disney Channel merchandise.

Well-said, Hannah Montana DVD Game. Once that orange juice is all drank by the Invisible Swordsman, there's just one Bill Paxton quote which applies: Game over, man. Game over!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Maybe Hannah Montana DVD Game will get more notice than Disney's past DVD games have, but I don't see it being a disc that will reverse the general public's limited interest in the format. Really, this is just like a collection of mostly featherweight DVD bonus features.
Were they scattered about the next ten 4-episode "Hannah Montana" compilations, they'd have provided diversion and been something to tout on the case. Gathered all together here, the package feels like it is missing something big.

On the plus side, making use of DVD's technological capabilities seems nobler than porting over frequently-aired Disney Channel content. And, trivial though these may be, these games require more creativity, thought, and activity than simply watching the show's lowest common denominator comedy. But unless you've got a pre-teen girl who's a big "Hannah Montana" fan and she has multiple friends who are also big "Hannah Montana" fans, there's really no reason whatsoever to consider getting this. If you meet the two aforementioned requirements, I still think you'd be better off letting one of the other friends' parents be the one to spend money on this. It's fine for what it is, but even without economic hardships, $25 seems a bit much for the slight platter.

If I was younger and thought more of "Hannah Montana", maybe I could get excited about this release. If something like this was put together for "Saved By The Bell" seventeen years ago (and, let's be honest, this holiday season), I think I'd get a real kick out of it. Perhaps one girl's "Hannah Montana" is another man's "Saved By The Bell"...

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to DVD: WALL•E • Kung Fu Panda (with Secrets of the Furious Five) • Walt Disney Treasures: Annette (The Mickey Mouse Club Serial)
DVD Games: High School Musical: DVD Game • Disney DVD Game World: Disney Princess Edition • Disney DVD Game World: Disney Dogs Edition
Camp Rock • Shrek the Halls • High School Musical 2 (2-Disc Deluxe Dance Edition) • Kit Kittredge: An American Girl • Nancy Drew (Drew's Clues)
Disney Princess Party: Volume One • Disney Princess Party: Volume Two • Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment • Holiday Treats

Hannah Montana on DVD:
Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season • Hannah Montana: The Movie • Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
Episode Compilations: Livin' the Rock Star Life • Pop Star Profile • Life's What You Make It • One in a Million • Keeping It Real • Miley Says Goodbye?
Crossover Events: That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Wish Gone Amiss • Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana
Radio Disney Party Jams: The Concert
CD/DVD Combos: Soundtrack • 2-Disc Special Edition Soundtrack

Hannah Montana Fathead Wall Graphics Rock!

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Reviewed November 17, 2008.