A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Barbie Malibu Mysteries draws kids into learning by turning them into amateur detectives. The mysteries are all light and the outcomes innocent (such as a shoe-snatching dog). Expect plenty of fashion and bling; this is Barbie, after all, so parents may find themselves subjected to appeals for additional Barbie-related items. The bonus for the game? Parents can customize spelling lists for their kids to bring real-world learning goals into the game.
What's it about?
When shoes suddenly start disappearing, it's Barbie and friends on the case in LEAPFROG EXPLORER LEARNING GAME: BARBIE MALIBU MYSTERIES. With the player's help, Barbie sets out in search of clues, interviewing people along the way. To earn clues, players will complete tasks such as searching for letters hidden in a scene, completing a word by adding the missing letter, or grouping words based on their beginning or ending sounds. The games are all related to letter recognition, letter sounds, and spelling. Each clue is actually a puzzle piece; once all the pieces are located, kids can assemble the puzzle and solve the mystery. There are three mysteries to solve, and each has a series of locations to visit and tasks to complete. Kids can replay their favorite games by map, and for players who are feeling creative, there's a photo activity and the ability to create their own outfits for Barbie. Parents and teachers who utilize the LeapFrog Connect parent controls can create custom spelling lists and upload them to the device for targeted practice.
Is it any good?
LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Barbie Malibu Mysteries is well-targeted at a preschool/early elementary age group. The familiar character, paired with themes of friendship and mystery, are definitely appealing, as is the idea of helping "older kids" with a task. Sure, there's a certain amount of fluff. And for some reason, each character strikes a pose and stares into the "camera" when she's done speaking (they're all female in this game). Beyond that, this is sure to engage the majority of little girls around age 4, as the tasks will be very difficult for kids who haven't gone beyond mastery of letters and letter sounds. In addition, even adults may occasionally struggle to spot the letter in the hidden object activities. With only a few quirks, this game is worth adding to the collection for Barbie fans, as well as for any parent who struggles to get her daughter (or Barbie-loving son) to sit down and study her spelling words.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters. Why do you think the developers chose Barbie and her friends to star in this game? Would it work with other characters?
Families also can talk about the idea of a mystery. What are some mysteries you've experienced at home or at school? How were they solved? When is it best to bring in an adult for help? Set up a mystery game at home with clues to find.
- Platforms: LeapFrog games, LeapPad Learning System
- Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, phonics, spelling
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: solving puzzles
- Price: $24.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: LeapFrog
- Release date: May 1, 2014
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Adventures, Numbers and Letters
- ESRB rating: NR
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.