Yes! Barbie’s back! It seems that the initial outing for Team Barbie Detective in Barbie Detective (which I will probably eventually acquire so it can be entered into the database) was popular enough to warrant a sequel. So Barbie, Ken, and their wheelchair-bound friend — together comprising a formidable crime-solving force — take off on a much-needed vacation only to find themselves toe to toe with another tantalizing mystery at their resort destination.
So how bad could this really be, right? I’ve suffered through quite a lot, Barbie-wise, for the sake of this blog and MobyGames. What could this game possibly serve up to push me to the brink? How about this Barbie Detective theme song which forcibly plays during installation? Listen to it; listen to it all! Share in my pain…
It’s darn creepy, mind you, the male singer crooning inappropriately that, “there’s just one girl you need to call / and she will … ease … your … mind.”
I’m not afraid, though, so I pressed forth. And I’m glad I did because this is the kind of game I live for in this Gaming Pathology project. Games that elicit just the right combination of awe, bewilderment, and outright guffaws. Really, I haven’t laughed so hard at a game while being simultaneously stunned since… I don’t know, maybe Secret Agent Barbie.
Remember that one music trivia game I played, Radio Active, the one that stored a database of 761 possible player names so it could personally address you? Before I found the fixed database, I wondered if it might actually sound out the name you input. Detective Barbie 2 actually does just that:
Yeah, it’s a little weird when you first study the list. You can click on any of the selections and the game will cheerfully sound it out, though many of the adjacent selections sound the same. Throughout the game, Barbie will specifically address you by this name, although the pronunciation tends to sound a tad inconsistent with her normal speech patterns.
So, about the story: Team Barbie Detective arrives at the Inn at Lighthouse Cove for a little R&R. The Inn, it must be noted, was built by an eccentric inventor and is known to be loaded with puzzles. Before they even get a chance to check in and bring their bags in from the car, the team learns from the innkeeper that some long-forgotten antique jewelry has been stolen. This makes me wonder how they knew it had been stolen if it was already long forgotten. But that’s just what the manual indicated. The in-game narrative is a little fuzzier on the details. I just know I’m supposed to wander around the Inn and surrounding grounds in search of “clues,” ones that usually hang out in plain sight, as we’ll see a bit later. Some are only visible with the help of the magnifying glass that Barbie finds and takes a shine to:
When hovering the magnifying glass over the globe, a handprint glows green. I suspect I was supposed to care, but I couldn’t find a way to act on it.
Detective Barbie 2 was developed by Gorilla Systems Corporation. They were also responsible for Barbie as Sleeping Beauty as well as Barbie Magic Genie Bottle (and presumably the custom accessory that came with it). This game is based on a marginal 3D engine, perhaps similar to that found in Magic Genie Bottle. You guide Barbie left, right, forward, and back against a backdrop that scales in and out when going forward or back on the plane. It started to make me wonder if these were just straight bitmaps that were scaled in and out. However, Barbie can go behind and in front of objects. Further, she casts quasi-accurate shadows, so there might be some actual 3D work going on here.
When using the magnifying glass over a region, all the pixels are just made bigger and blockier.
Along the way, the player talks to a colorful cast of characters, each of whom is naturally a suspect. Take the chef above, for example. Personally, I found her most suspect characteristic to be her accent, which seemed to shift between French, German, and Russian. I would like to include a sample here but I can’t figure out the coding format the speech samples are stored in.
Here’s another nitpicky detail I got hung up on:
So teammate Kelly is wheelchair-bound. Fine, not a big deal. I’m just wondering how they managed to transport Kelly’s motorized wheelchair in Barbie’s pink convertible roadster:
And what kind of car is that, anyway? At first, it looked a bit like a Porsche. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a spacious Porsche convertible.
So, like I said, Barbie has to walk around the place and be spoon-fed clues and cues to advance the plot. Further, there are a few, more action-oriented activities, such as boat racing and hang gliding. I found the latter activity during my brief play. There wasn’t really any point (goal) to it that I could find; just a brief diversion. This is supposed to be a vacation after all.
I have to admit, the Inn was constructed beautifully enough that I rather enjoyed exploring the grounds, though I often had to fight with the awkward control scheme to do so (push the mouse cursor to extreme edges of the screen to make Barbie move). It’s just too bad I couldn’t bring myself to care too deeply about the mystery at hand. However, I got one last giant laugh from this scene and then decided I had reached my Barbie limit for the evening:
I must have tripped a plot point by visiting some other location because when I returned to this room, what do I find, but a phantom teacup just sort of floating there. This game isn’t supposed to have supernatural elements to it so I can only assume that this is merely an idiosyncrasy of the 3D engine. Anyway, I photograph it and feed the data into the portable crime computer. Kelly then notifies me via videoconference that it appears to be a teacup, most likely used for a garden party. She says this seriously as though it’s some kind of critical clue.
This game is just ridiculous enough that I’m tempted to play it again some time to see what other kinds of amusement might await.