Designing a game for very young children is particularly difficult. They can't read; they have the patience of well, a 2-year old; they're not sophisticated gamers; and subtlety of anything escapes them. I've noticed this frequently when my children - who are 8 and 10 - have made attempts with the Wii. Technically, they grew up on a PS2, GC and Xbox. My younger child, in particular, just can't make subtle movements with the Wii-mote and is forever frustrated (he throws the Wii-mote far too often for my liking). Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey addresses all of these problems and is a pretty good game, too!
It is far too rare that a game is designed with the developmental abilities of 4-8 year old children in mind. Even less often that those abilities are understood. Does a 6 or 7 year old read? Do all 8 year olds? Do all 4 year olds know their colors? The answers are not as black and white as "what age is the child". I really can't applaud the designers of Disney Princess enough for throwing out the age bracket and looking at skills and maturity.
Ok, Ok, I know! The game!
First, you get to make your own princess! And before you groan and say, "This game is for girls" my oldest boy wouldn't watch a single Disney film that didn't have a Princess in it until he was six. His favorite was Mulan, the least "girly" of them all, but nonetheless, he only watched Princess movies. Little boys love their moms and I really don't think being a princess will matter when they get to the actual gameplay.
So, you've picked your face, your dress, your hair style and color and your wand. Lumiere (from Beauty and the Beast) will take you through a basic tutorial - all done in full voice over, no reading required - in how to move and use your wand. You make a circle to twirl; shake it up and down to shake it up and down; shake it side to side to shake it side to side. The degree of movement doesn't matter. Big circles or little circles, big shakes or little shakes - the desired effect works.
Lumiere will let you know that the worlds of the Princesses have been changed and could you please help fix them? Snow White needs help with color; Ariel with sound; for Cinderella there seems to be a problem with time; and Jasmine's people are seeing mirages of gold, making them all very greedy.
I spent most of my time in the world of Snow White. Tree tops were grey, as were rocks or barrels. Lying around the landscape were pots of paint. I simply shook my wand near them - which changed the color of the wand - then went up to the item and twirled. Magic! There were gems lying on the ground; I could choose to pick these up or not. Later, they could be used to get new outfits, hair ribbons, etc.
I played in the garden area for a little while until I came to a gait with a key that needed color - green! I made my wand green, changed the lock, had some help from...someone...went through the gate and there was Snow White waiting for me at the cottage. I've come to the second part of her world.
The game isn't linear. I can choose to go back and enter another world or go on. If a child bores of color and wants to work with sound, change worlds. Tired of Jasmine and want to see Snow White? Move right along. And if you spend just a little time, then there will be some mini-games you can play with Belle.
They even remembered the all-important co-op mode. No young child likes playing alone. Heck, most of the time they want you to play and they want to watch. At least Mom or Dad can play and they can "help".
I have high hopes for Disney Princess, not because the game was made by Disney (they've made some stinkers), not because the Princesses are a sure bet - but because the design really does look at the intended demographic. And it's about time.
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.