Squinkies

 
Kids who love popular collectible toy will love this game.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The game's real message is that collecting these toys is fun, and as such serves as marketing tool for the Squinkies toys.

Positive role models

Your character, the Squinkies princess, is out to recover lost Squinkies. It's a more benevolent motive than just wanting to collect toys.

Ease of play

The challenge level is varied depending on the mini-game you're faced with. Some, like the puzzles and match games, are simple enough for the littlest kids. Others, like a match-three puzzle game and a billiards-type game, require a bit more finesse and pose much more of a challenge. There's no real penalty to losing a mini-game, though -- it just means you don't get the Squinkie this time. That Squinkie will always be available again later.

Violence & scariness

Your princess character gets chased by turtles, but she's not hurt by them, only slowed down.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

The game comes packaged with "4 Ultra-Rare Squinkies only available in this video game." As the collecting of Squinkies toys is a major part of the toys' appeal, these bonus items make buying the video game almost irresistible for collectors. The game also does a great job of reinforcing that collecting theme, as the game's only goal is to acquire as many of the nearly 300 Squinkies as possible. It's a soft sell, but a smartly developed marketing tool.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Squinkies, the DS game, will really, really appeal to kids who are interested in Squinkies toys. It does so by mimicking the gotta-collect-'em-all fervor that sparks fans to buy loads of Squinkies toys. The game even comes packaged with 4 "ultra-rare" Squinkies toys. Understand that there's no hard sell and no call to run out and buy Squinkies toy, but the soft sell approach is masterfully done here.

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What's it about?

Playing as a princess in SQUINKIES, you will receive alerts that batches of lost Squinkies have been located. You'll then need to traverse a maze-like world, dodging road-blocking turtles along the way, in order to scoop up as many of the Squinkies as you can in three minutes. Each time you reach a Squinkie, you'll have to complete a mini-game in order to rescue it. Mini-games include puzzles, match-three games, memory games, coloring games, a fruit-snatching race against the turtles, and a game of pool (!). If you complete a mini-game fast enough, you also earn a bonus coin that you can use to earn an extra Squinkie from a giant gumball machine. There are about 300 Squinkies to collect in total.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The Squinkies DS game feels like it was almost perfectly crafted to appeal to young girls who love the Squinkies toy line. Squinkies toys are little rubber pencil-topper characters, the main appeal of which is simply to collect as many of them as you can. The developers of this game could have tried to take some of the Squinkies and give them real character traits and send them on a cliched platform-jumping adventure -- but instead, they stuck to what kids love about Squinkies and just made the game about collecting them. A couple of the mini-games feel a bit out of left field, but for the most part, they feel in keeping with the Squinkies experience. As a result, this DS game, which is clearly a clever marketing tool, also turns out to be a crowd-pleasing game.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about video games as marketing devices. Ask kids if they can understand the ways in which this video game helps sell Squinkies toys and helps promote the Squinkies brand, even though nothing in the game ever looks like an ad.

  • Can kids think of other video games they've seen or played that have featured marketing aspects?

Game details

Platforms:Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi
Price:$29.99
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Activision
Release date:April 12, 2011
Genre:Girl
ESRB rating:E for (No Descriptors) (Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi)

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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