Disney Princess - a name that strikes fear into the hearts of any boy under the age of ten. With lashings of pink, sparkles and ribbons, and despite being kryptonite to young boys, the Disney Princesses have garnered quite a following amongst young girls – walk round any Disneyland park, and you'll spot scores of Rapunzels, Cinderellas and Belles; pop into the Disney store, and you'll find rows of the perfect princesses in doll form, all perfectly smiling back. A veritable gold mine for Disney, particularly in recent years, the continually gorgeous, constantly pristine women seem more popular than ever – and, much like the children who love them, the Princesses have moved into the digital age, with a whole slew of related computer games.
There's been a fair few exclusive Disney games on the Wii/DS over the years, with the most recent entry, Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure joining the likes of Tangled and The Princess and the Frog. But although it has five times as many Princesses on the box, in My Fairytale Adventure, you don't actually get to play as one, as you instead take on the role of the Fairy Godmother's young apprentice, who's managed to accidentally turn all the helpful sprites in the magic kingdom into rebellious imps. Running wild, they've managed to nick all the magical crystals which seal the portals to some of Disney's best-loved films, heading into each of the worlds in order to cause havoc – and it's up to you to put things right.
After customising your apprentice to your liking – choosing a hair style and colour, accessories and which wholly impractical dress you want to wear, you head out on your journey to transform the imps back into sprites and return them to the magic kingdom. As you may imagine, though, being a fairy apprentice, there'll be no need to get your hands too dirty on your quest, as instead, you can call on two magic spells - a zapping spell, which lets you fire at the imps with your wand, and the much vaunted (at least on the box) "Twirl Magic", which, unfortunately, doesn't summon unlimited quantities of chocolate bars, but does act as a multi-purpose spell to magic objects back to their correct places, and break through impish shields.
You'll start the game with a choice of four Disney worlds in which to begin your quest – Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella, each of which contains two separate levels, set at different points during the film, along with a fifth, locked-until-you-complete-all-the-others stage set in The Princess and the Frog. Each level is packed with half a dozen or more little objectives to complete, which mostly revolve around zapping a certain number of imps, who're throwing spanners in the works in various places, with the help of your magic wand. Intermixed with the imp-zapping are short fetch quests, where you help out the world's princess by scouting the land for X amount of Y, and a handful of mini-games – whether it's catching books as they fall off the shelves, fixing together the pieces of a broken bridge, jigsaw-style, or playing back a short series of notes on a piano. Each world has been nicely themed to match the film it's based on, too, with familiar locations and characters from the film scattered around that you can interact with, from Jaq, Cinderella's helpful mouse, to Rapunzel's little chameleon friend Pascal. Better still, they're all pretty well voiced, with Beauty and the Beast's Lumiere, and the Little Mermaid's know-it-all seagull Scuttle and Jamaican hermit crab, Sebastian, all raising a smile - although Rapunzel’s face really doesn't look quite right.
Mindful of its younger audience, the team behind Disney Princess have tried to make the game as easy to pick up and play as possible, with several features that try to ensure no-one will get stuck for more than a few minutes. As you stroll around the levels, a helpful voice will periodically remind you of what you're meant to be doing, and you can press the 1 button should you ever need a reminder. There’s also a sparkling trail leading you to the location for your next mission, helping to make sure you never get lost, which was surprisingly accurate for most of the game. In fact, we only really experienced one minor hiccup, when, in the winding underwater caverns of The Little Mermaid Chapter 1, you were meant to be heading up toward the surface, (so Scuttle could tell you something about dinglehoppers), but the line actually ended up pointing off to the right somewhere, leading you to King Triton’s throne room...
But while it gets a lot of things right, Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure isn't without its problems - the main one being its longevity, or lack thereof. With just nine levels, each lasting roughly half an hour each, you'll likely see everything there is to see in about five hours - although again, a lot will depend on how quickly your child can find everything, so the mileage will likely vary quite substantially. Of course, there is some replay value provided by the (sadly, pointless) things you can do around the hub area, such as tending to your magical garden, rearranging your bedroom furniture or backtracking through the levels to open the previously locked chests, but once you've finished it, there's little real reason to come back - unless, of course, you start a brand new game and play through the whole thing again, as younger kids oft do.
Another iffy bit is the way the two player co-op mode works, as, again, like other kids games, it doesn't work quite as well as it really should. With a touch of the A button on another Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo, a second princess can jump in to lend a hand - which sounds great in theory. The only problem is, it's blatantly obvious the Fairy Godmother picks favourites, as the second player can't customise their character at all, nor interact with any of the characters in the game - and they'll also find themselves being teleported instantly to their companion's side if they stray too far away. It's something that's likely to be a problem for younger players, especially if they want to explore separate areas, only to find themselves continually being teleported to the side of the main player, losing track of their character, and becoming disoriented in the process. There's also a slight issue with the magic, as, while the zapping spell works fine, only one character's able to use their Twirl Magic at a time - if you try to use your Twirl Magic while the other player's mid-spell, you'll find they still pirouette, but your spell does nothing, which can be a bit frustrating until you figure out what's going on.
In all, then, Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure is a good diversion for your little princess, though sadly marred somewhat by it's short length and limited co-op. For the lone apprentice looking to pass a few magical hours, though, you can't go far wrong, especially when taking into mind that the game can be bought for a bargain price of about £20. If your little one's a big fan of the Disney princesses, or Disney in general, the chances are they'll have a good time with this.