Dora the Explorer: The Lost City Adventure

Dora the Explorer: Lost City Adventure

Publisher: Atari

Release Date: 08/11/2004


Genre: Edutainment
Setting: cartoon

In a household of three kids of close ages, Dora the Explorer has been a staple in our Nick Jr. lineup and a fixture on our televisions along with the likes of Blues Clues and Sesame Street. So much so that, to all parents' great embarrassment, we find ourselves humming the theme songs at work. (Oh, you know you do, too.) Anyway, the one thing I've never understood about Dora is: how could her parents just let her run away into the jungle like that day after day? You can call that parenting, but I don't.

Don't expect Dora the Explorer - Lost City Adventure to do much parenting to your children either. While mostly faithful to the hit television series, the game falls short with minimal content and real lack of imagination. In fact, if you are a dedicated gamer, you could finish the game in less time than a single Dora episode. It won't take your kids much longer to finish either, and really doesn't have much longevity to it.

Upon loading the game, you are prompted to make a "save" for your character, just like pretty much every other game out since The Legend of Zelda. You also select the level you want to play at, from 1 (easiest) to 3 (hardest). While the harder levels are slightly more difficult, usually by mixing in higher numbers or more colors in the games, changing the level doesn't affect the way the game is played. You then get to select to either play The Lost City Adventure, or to open up the Map and pick which area you would like to visit.

Craving adventure in the dark South American Jungle, my daughter and I chose the Lost City. (Which, by the way, isn't represented on the screen as the Lost City, but instead the Numbers Pyramid part way through the game, but that's just nit-picking.) The adventure opens up like every Dora episode you'll ever see, which is the strongest point to the game. On the TV show, Dora invites the kids at home to "click" on certain items or areas on the screen, as if they were sitting in front of a computer - and this translates well to a computer game. In fact, you might as well be playing an episode of Dora on your computer.

We're told that Dora has lost her Teddy Bear, and she asks us to help do a paint-by-numbers so that we can see what the Teddy Bear looks like. As we match up the numbers to the paint, Dora sounds off with the Spanish word for that number, which is the educational theme for the game. Just like the TV show, Dora uses every chance to help teach your child Spanish, focusing mainly on learning how to count, but also sprinkling in other words as you go. Don't get too excited, your child won't be asking how to get to the train station, but it's a nice little nudge to learn about foreign language and culture.

After learning about our mission to go to the Lost City and recover Dora's Teddy Bear, we set off in typical Dora style - with a song. Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, years of intense brainwashing and firmly embedded these songs in my head, and have me used to a certain rhythm. While the game does include part of the "Everybody let's go" song, and the "We did it!" song at the end, it completely rumbles past the Map song - which is key to the Dora show. Also, the "Everybody let's go" song is cut short, so Dora and Boots don't sing the part about where they are going on the map, and why. Call me a children's television purist if you must, but if you are going to emulate a television show for a game, use the entire formula. Kids are sticklers for these things and notice immediately, which causes them to discard the illusion of the game. It's not a long game to begin with; I'm sure they could have spent just one more hour recording the audio.

In any case, after the formulaic three stops on the map like in the television show, we were treated to the typical "We did it!" musical montage, and then the Lost Adventure was finished. Total time: about 40 minutes. Not exactly great value for your dollar. Hoping that the "choose a game" mode might yield more fun we jumped in there, only to find it to be the exact same map that we had already worked through, with the exact same games. A few minutes of bored clicking later and we put the game away. No real replay-ability here. There are the usual "print out these activities" as well, but even those are pretty sparse.

I wouldn't recommend this game for anyone over four or five. Anyone older will either finish it too quickly, or be bored and stop playing. My daughter and I give this advice: If your child is really into Dora, and you find this game in the bargain bin or as a previously used title, then by all means get it. Otherwise, save your money for another game.

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About the Author, Dave Sanders (A.K.A Vulgrin)

Dave lives with his wife and three kids, doing independant software development consulting and fits games in every nook and cranny of his free time. He particularly enjoys seeing new and fresh ideas from the Indie Game Studios, and believes that they are the true future of gaming. He'll play just about anything if you put it in front of him, and usually like about two thirds of it. He's also an "0ld Sk00l" gamer, having cut his teeth on Adventure, the Vic-20, Apple II and Infocom. Back when playing a new game meant you had to type the program in from a Family Computing magazine, during a snowstorm, up a hill, both ways.