Fifi's Garden Party for the DS is another entry in a long line of children's TV tie-in games, offering the fairly standard fare of a selection of mini-games set in the world of the program, only this time, there's something of a story to tie everything up. Being the absent minded muppet she is, Fifi the forget-me-not was so busy tending to her garden, that she's forgotten to prepare the party she was going to throw for her Flowertot friends. As such, it's up to you to help her traipse round the garden to find food and toys for the party – through the magical medium of a bunch of mini-games.
That said, for the kids who are getting there with their reading - perhaps those that are in their first few years at school - Fifi's Garden Party may well prove to be the perfect game to encourage their reading and maths. With fifteen mini-games, all with a mathematical, logical or puzzley bent – whether it's filling in the signs for a series of simple sums, arranging a load of dominoes or counting the number of honey pots shown on screen, there's a decent variety of games on offer here - so long as your child's old enough to be able to cope with the maths they throw at you. Mixing themselves in with the educationally themed fare are a variety of games that are just for fun, like 'Music', where you're tapping notes as they cross a blue line in a kind of Guitar-Hero-esque way, a whack-a-Grubby game called 'Hammer' where you need to tap them as they pop their heads out of pots, and the familiar game of pairs that seems to pop up in some form or another in every kids mini-game collection, as well as the given jigsaw puzzles and sliding tiles games.
The only problem is, while there's a decent variety on offer here, much like the amount of reading required, some of the mini-games seem way too difficult for the audience that would be watching the TV show - and although you can pick an "easy" difficulty level, in our experience, it doesn't really make things easy enough. For example, the 'Abacus' game, which requires you to shift two columns of beads – representing the tens and units - up and down to make the number shown on the top screen may be roughly the right sort of difficulty for pre-school children, but this is probably the easiest Maths game on the collection. 'Calculations' is where things really start to get tricky. On the easiest difficulty, the questions you're asked here are still likely too hard for a pre-school audience - things like 15 - ? = 9, or 30 ? 9 = 21 are probably above and beyond what they've been taught - yet alone how hard it gets on medium, where questions like "171 divided by what gives 19" will challenge even the parents. True or False is similarly fairly simple on easy - but we don't think it's quite easy enough for the pre-school children who'll be playing it. While 2+3 = ? might have been OK, or something represented using beads, or seeds, or anything else children can count, the game instead asks if 14 - 9 = 5, or if 6 + 2 = 15. That's probably more borderline - but it still proved too hard for our test three year old.
In all, Fifi And The Flowertots: Fifi's Garden Party is a bit of a mixed bag - it's obviously had a lot of work put into it, but in terms of the children's audience it's going for, it seems to have far too high an expectation of what to expect from the kiddywinks that want to play it. While it's possible there are a few children who both still enjoy Fifi, and would be capable of doing the puzzles, while our test seven year old had no problem with the games, she assured she wasn't keen on Fifi because it was "for babies".
When you consider the large amount of reading a child has to do in order to understand the story (or even what they have to do in the minigames), combined with the difficulty of the games that are on offer, it seems that Fifi's Garden Party is simply going to be too hard for the pre-school children who want to play it. Instead, it's perhaps best suited to those who are in their first few years of school, and have progressed just beyond learning to read and doing basic maths – although by then, they may well consider themselves too old for Fifi, and what she has to offer.