Hands On with Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center
By Bonnie Cohen
I’ll admit it — as a child I became an instant puppy-loving sap whenever I saw high-energy, tail-wagging, bouncy puppies frolicking and playing. The inability to resist puppy cuteness has since been passed on to my offspring. Upon seeing a puppy, my almost four-year-old daughter and five-year-old son immediately begin begging to bring one home. But as an adult, I look past the puppy charm and remind myself of the many responsibilities of dog ownership.
After glancing at the box cover art for Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center from
Disney Interactive, I thought we had found a solution to puppy ownership that doesn’t involve paper training and half-conscious early-morning leash walks. My two older children are the target audience for playing Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center, which is designed for ages four to eight. With the Adopt-a-Puppy activity, we could each select a virtual puppy from four possible companions at the Dog Shelter — each with its own puppy paraphernalia. We could even tour international parks together, visiting Vancouver, London, Paris, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco.
But after seeing one animated park, we’d more or less seen them all. Although the backdrops changed, playing with our adopted puppies was limited to simple single-screen postcard park vistas with few surprises. Adopting a puppy was somewhat enjoyable, but just getting to a park location was no picnic. For my kids, it might have been easier to walk a real dog on a leash.
Before entering the Dog Shelter, players are asked whether or not they have an Internet connection. If you have Internet access, you can select a puppy to adopt from inside the Dog Shelter and then click on only the highlighted, hanging picture frame. From here, you are taken to a special Web link to download the international park you have selected.
While the concept of downloading each park may have seemed innovative to the folks at Disney Interactive, it’s anything but. In order to continue playing with your virtual pup at the park, you are forced to exit Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center and relaunch the game using the new download. This could only be described as a source of frustration and confusion for young players and an annoyance for parents.
My daughter thought the puppies were fun to play with but didn’t like the limited selection of available puppy toys and gear. After deciding to select a new puppy to adopt, my daughter was forced to start the game over and sign in using a different name.
After waiting to download and relaunch the activity center in order to play with a puppy at a virtual park, my son queried, “Is that it?” And, unfortunately, that sentiment carried through the majority of the games on Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center.
Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center is loosely based on the live action feature film Disney’s 102 Dalmatians, a sequel to the live action Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. In the film, Cruella De Vil (portrayed by Glenn Close) is released from prison for good behavior — only to reveal her wicked ways again by plotting to capture Dalmatian puppies for a fur coat.
All of the activities can be reached through either the Main London Map or the Main Paris Map. By clicking on icons located on either map, children are able to reach activity areas or view snapshots and hear simple facts about famous landmarks, monuments and tourist hot spots. The maps are linked through a quick train ride, which can be reached by clicking on the train icon on either map page.
My daughter enjoyed her visit to the Pup’Art Gallery where she was able to create printable art work using character stickers from the motion picture next to stickers of a large sampling of dog breeds. Children are able to choose from plain or decorated backdrops or just play with the art tools. This activity may be fun and creative, but using a full-blown children’s art utility program can be far more rewarding.
Inside Cruella’s Mansion, children help Kevin race to feed the puppies in Chow Time, an arcade-styled game. Players guide Kevin using the left and right arrow keys. As the puppies make their way along the sides of the long dining tables, players can press the space bar to release bowls of puppy food. The goal of this game is to feed as many puppies as quickly as possible without allowing them to make their way into the kitchen. Younger children may find the speed at which the puppies are making their way down the aisles to be overwhelming.
At the Paris Police Station, children can help Kevin and Waddlesworth identify the Top Dog by using deductive reasoning skills and logical thinking. Players need to ask questions using the Twilight Bark and discard dog agent cards that do not fit the Top Dog description. The Top Dog is the only dog agent who has information regarding the abducted puppies.
Hands-down, the game we all enjoyed was Verdogo. In this arcade-styled action game, players guide Oddball along a series of tubes and shutes located inside LePelt’s bakery to find the 102 stolen dalmatian puppies. Players use the arrow keys to move Oddball up, down, left or right while searching for and collecting puppies and bakery items. Players can press the space bar to shoot the frosting, butter or jelly at Alonso, LePelt or Cruella and slow them down until all 102 puppies have been rescued.
Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center offers an automatic save feature which allows players to return to a game easily by accessing the sign-in screen.
Although Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center was designed for ages four to eight, older children may not find the majority of the games challenging enough. The games offer levels of challenge, but at the expense of limiting the amount of available game play whereas the higher levels can also be reached by playing games from the lower levels on up. But even the targeted audience may become dissatisfied with game play after only a few rounds. Once each of the challenges had been completed, my five-year-old son lost all interest in playing the activities again.
Disney’s 102 Dalmatians Activity Center is available now at major software retailers at the suggested retail price of US$29.99. I’d recommend saving your money for something more worthwhile, like an electronic toy puppy that doesn’t need paper training.
System requirements include: Mac OS 8.1 through 9.x; G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster; 32 MB RAM; 60 MB free hard disk space; 8x speed CD-ROM drive; and thousands of colors video display.