Review: American Girl: Kit Mystery Challenge (Nintendo DS)
by Alix Talbot on July 10, 2008

American Girl: Kit Mystery Challenge
Genre: Adventure
Developer: THQ
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 06/23/2008


When I first began playing this game I wondered to myself why anyone would bother making such a thing. Then, I saw the ads for the upcoming movie, and it all started to make sense.

The American Girl franchise is a multi-million dollar subsidiary of Mattel. “At American Girl, our goal is to create girls of strong character. That’s why we’ve developed books and products that help girls grow up in a wholesome way, while encouraging them to enjoy girlhood through enchanting and fun play.”

Apparently, sometime around 1986 America decided its little girls just weren’t being all they could be, and that’s when the brainwashing began with the inception of the American Girls.

Kit Mystery Challenge is THQ’s second foray into the world of the American Girls franchise, starting initially with American Girl: Julie Finds a Way. This first game had lots of fun mini-games and a multiplayer option that allowed pre-teen girls the option of working together on the various games. It also had unlockable content in the “Looking Back” section of the game, which was pulled directly from the books.

Unfortunately, nothing quite so entertaining is to be found in the second installment.

Story

You are Kit Kittredge, the girl with the nose for news! You are growing up during the Great Depression and suddenly Dad has lost his car company and your family is forced to take in boarders in order to make ends meet. Strangely, mysterious things keep happening around the neighborhood and Kit is the only one who can solve the cases. The story is bland, with little of interest to keep a player involved.

Story Rating: Below Average

Graphics

This is some seriously rudimentary 3D they’ve got going here. There are features that allow you to zoom in for a closer look, but believe me, you don’t want to. All you’ll get is a pixilated mess. Sure, the still shots look good, but just try moving through the scenes to reveal graphics that seem half-finished.

Graphics Rating: Pretty Poor

Sound

There seems to be a theme of poorly portrayed jazzy flapper music running through the background of the entire game. The characters never actually speak; you just get pages and pages of dialogue to flip through. Occasionally, when you manage to pick up a clue you get to hear a pleasant little chiming noise. I opted to keep the sound off so that the ritzy little tunes wouldn’t spin endlessly through my mind, infecting my soul.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control & Game Play

This was the most depressing part of the entire game. It was extremely hard to maneuver around half-opened doorways, and it was quite common to find myself stuck in a corner with no place to go. I have a feeling that if it’s this difficult for me, 9 year-olds will be even more frustrated. Also, there is the factor of certain characters “disappearing” into the graphics. I spent two hours looking for one person, only to find that her green dress blended right into the flowers she was gardening. I was solving a mystery in a single house; it should not have taken me two hours to find one character. That’s just ridiculous.

The story is completely linear, it is impossible to do one thing if you haven’t found, or spoken to the right person in the right order. Fortunately, Kit has a notebook that gives absolutely clear direction on what to do next. I had the culprit figured out 2 minutes into the game, but I was unable to solve the case for 4 hours because of all the running around I had to do in order to gather sufficient evidence. It didn’t help that I constantly had to back up and circle around areas that were blocked by the graphics. Also, the game requires usage of all of the buttons on the system as well as the stylus, so there was a lot of picking up and putting down of the stylus to hamper game play.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Bad

Replay Ability

I see absolutely no reason for anyone to replay this game. There are six mysteries to solve. Once you solve the first mystery, the next four are unlocked bidding you to solve them all to unlock the sixth case. If anyone were to drudge that far into the game they would find that Kit gets to write an article for the Cincinnati Register newspaper. Yay!

There is no multiplayer option and there are no other optional ways to play, once you’ve done it, it’s over, and why torture yourself again?

Replay Ability Rating: Bad

Balance

There is no real level of difficulty to this game at all, other than maneuvering the screens. Kit’s case book is like a step-by-step manual on how to solve each case.

Balance Rating: Poor

Originality

Well, based on the fact that I’ve personally never come across a game this boring, I could potentially say that it is rather original. Maybe the guys over at THQ were wondering if they could find a way to make slamming your head against the wall, appealing. If so, congrats!

Originality Rating: Mediocre

Addictiveness

Not a factor. I can imagine some little girls frustratingly trying to plow their way through this game just to prove that they can. Other than that, well I was ready to put the game away forever after an hour. Although, I did have the sick thought that maybe, if I kept earning money for Kit, I could solve the town’s hunger problem single-handedly. Then, I realized I would actually have to play the game more. Not happening.

Addictiveness Rating: Very Bad

Appeal Factor

With the release of the upcoming movie I expect many a little girl will be forcing their mommies and daddies to purchase this game for them. After all, the American Girl franchise is a collectable franchise. These girls have to have the game to complete their set. Other than that, no one in their right mind would buy this game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

Miscellaneous

Ok, here’s where I surprise you by saying something nice about this game. Kit has the opportunity through all six cases to earn money by collecting and selling eggs, running errands for her ornery uncle, and making deliveries for the butcher. What does this wholesome young girl do with her savings? She feeds families at the food shelter, buys more chickens for the family, buys seeds for the family garden, and reinstates phone usage to the household. I think it’s great to attempt to instill virtues of generosity in these young gamers.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

Final Rating: Poor

The Scores:
Story: Below Average
Graphics: Pretty Poor
Sound: Mediocre
Control/Gameplay: Very Bad
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Poor
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Very Bad
Appeal: Poor
Miscellaneous: Decent

Final Score: Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary

Kit’s Mystery Challenge only holds up one real mystery; why? Why release a game geared towards girls aged 8-12 that is extremely difficult to navigate and maneuver through? The story lines are bland, possibly a reflection of the time they are attempting to recreate. Everyone knows the Great Depression was no fun, why instill that mindset into a game? This game will most probably be purchased for numerous young girls who harbor dreams of being big crime-solvers. Instead, they’ll find themselves locked in a completely linear story that doesn’t allow for much actual thinking.



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Alix Talbot

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  • Macarena

    does anybody have solved the chicken coops mystery??? any help

  • Blake Gripling

    It’s like a girl’s game designed for girls with the patience of a Buddhist monk.

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