Review: Shining Stars Super Starcade (Nintendo DS)


Shining Stars Super Starcade
Genre: Mini-game/Arcade simulator
Developer: Frame Studios Interactive
Publisher: DSI
Release Date: 06/24/2008

Russ Berrie, of Troll doll fame, apparently has a line of plush dolls called Shining Stars. It seems that they’ve struck some sort of deal with the International Star Registry, such that a bunch of newly discovered stars are being named after these stuffed animals.

Hence the name, Shining Stars.

It also appears that these cuddly buddies are of the digital age, containing webcodes to allow the toddling set to access an internet world of Shining Stars. I’m sure they do this in a wonderful and unique matter, in ways that are absolutely nothing like yesteryear’s fad of Webkins.

Anyroad, this leads us to Shining Stars Super Starcade wherein a plush Panda wearing a trenchcoat and brandishing a baseball bat appears to lose the main event to an evil, balding, stuffed lion, only to have the match restarted by THIS THING:
plush Bret screwed plush Bret
Wait, that was Shining Stars Super Starrcade ’97. My bad.

This “Starcade” (note only 1 r) is a DS game, in which one plays the role of a hugable amusement park tycoon. At the start of the game, the player is prompter to choose from a number of cutesy looking animals to serve as the player’s avatar. I let my daughter do this thing. She chose a panda, creatures known for their business savvy.

After you pick a creature, you see your avatar riding around on some sort of star-shaped hover-board in a big empty lot. You are prompted to buy an attraction to start your own Super Starcade. The game starts you with just enough “glow points” (i.e. teddy bear capital) to buy the cheapest attraction- a duck shooting game. You buy it and get a tent. Now, you can use the stylus to click on a tiny portion of the tent in order to play the duck shooting game, wherein ducks and bottles scroll across the bottom screen on conveyor belts and you touch them with the stylus to shoot them.

Exciting, no?

If you don’t want to do that, you could just use your stylus to drag that little star shaped hover-board around the empty lot to kill some time. That’s not too much fun either.

So, you play the duck game and by doing that you earn more glow points. (Don’t ask me how you earn glow points by playing your own game in your own amusement park. ) Very soon, you’ll have enough glow points to buy another mini-game. Each mini-game contains a very basic wordless instruction of how to play it. Sometimes these directions are quite obtuse, but at least they require no reading for the 5 year old crowd.

These mini-games range from things like “Connect the Dots” or a Simon-like pattern memorizing game, or a Concentration-like card matching game. For many of these games, that term game is a misnomer; they are more accurately called mundane tasks. Very often the controls are sloppy. The more enjoyable of this lot of “attractions” tend to be evocative of quickly produced internet flash games. All of the “attractions” make exclusive use of the stylus, and have all the action take place on the bottom screen. Thus, most of the games feel like mediocre Palm Pilot games, and the main challenge for many of them is keeping your hand from blocking the screen.

Come on, use the top screen for something useful. For most of the game, the top screen contains only a picture of your avatar, your glow points and a big mostly empty box. Sometime the box will offer some advice like play games to earn glow points, or buy stuff to attract customers. If you need to be told these things more than 3 times, chances are you can’t read.

Another point of frustration is the difficulty system. You start out playing a game at level 1, naturally. You play level one until you beat it. Then, you play level 2. This continues all the way to max level (which tends to be around level 8 or so). There is no choice though. Once level 3 is beaten, it is gone for good. If you let your friend borrow the DS to play a mini-game, she will have to play the mini-games at all your levels.

Naturally, to remedy this problem, she should start her own game and run her own theme park with her own stuffed avatar, right?

Wrong.

You can’t have more than one save on the game cartridge. Once my daughter picked the panda, we were stuck with the Panda avatar. To start a new game would be to erase the old one. This wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, if it meant that we wouldn’t have to re-buy all the mini-games. But guess what? Yeah. I’m not tapping any more ducks with a stylus to earn enough super-kitty-awesome-puppy bonus points to buy a semi-broken stylus air hockey game.

In addition to attractions, you can also buy “Accessories”, which consist of the subgroups “Neat Stuff”, “Plants”, “Toys”, and “Vehicles”. These are things, along with the mini-games, used to attract more customers to your Super Starcade. The more customers that come, the more glow points you get. (That’s what she said?) So let’s attract some customers!

Let’s see we’ll click on the “Neat Stuff” tab. What qualifies as “Neat Stuff”. The first thing on the page is. . .

a LOG!

I guess logs are kind of neat.

The second thing is . . .

a BAMBOO CHAIR!

Okay, now I need some heart medicine. The third thing is . . .

a PUDDLE OF WATER!!

Oh man, I am going to attract so many customers now that I have my very own log and puddle of water. I can see people waiting in line to sit in that bamboo chair.

Okay, well “Plants” it is. Maybe there will be some topiaries, some cool flower gardens, or a nice shrubbery. Or, maybe it will consist of things like a few leafless trees, some kelp and an evergreen. (Those who guessed the latter, have won a cookie!)

The “Toys” and “Vehicles” sections at least contain things that look like they would be fun. Things here include a Rocket Pack, a Snow Board, a Jeep, and a Space Scooter!

I want a space scooter! So bad.

Anywho, you buy the space scooter, and you can drag it across your lot to put it into position. You hit the little green button to place it next to the pool. They, you drag you little panda over to ride it, and he goes right through the dang thing. Apparently, just for show. And the hover-board seems to have no problem traveling over water, or through customers, or through the attractions. . .

Wait a minute. . .

Yep, no collision detection.

So, you go and buy 15 of the 16 attractions. (The last one is some sort of super-expensive mall. I’m not saving for it.) You buy a couple of toys and space goo and a sad leafless tree. It’s time to watch the customers pour in, huh? Let’s see I’ve got 4 whole customers right now! Wait, 4? Really? Sometimes as many as six. They float around, occasionally getting thought bubbles over their heads. Inside the bubble is an emoticon of some sort or a symbol saying that they are going to a tent, leaving, etc. You can click on the customers and communicate to them via choosing an emoticon of your very own.

Conversations tend towards things like this:
Exclamation point.
Smiley face with glasses
Shocked face
Sad face
Smiley face without glasses
Smiley Face without glasses
A slightly ajar door indicative of fleeing the park.

Anywho, by attracting customers by the, ones, like me, you can earn more sparkle points. Wait, was it sparkle points or glow points? Super-happy-panda-kitten-dollars?

So, more customers afford you more super-happy-panda-kitten dollars. At one point, just letting the DS and my panda idle, I was earning nearly 10 miracle-ecstacy-fantastic-glow-nickels per minute. Well, I take that earlier statement back; that 100,000 miracle-ecstacy-fantastic-glow-nickel dollar Mega Mall will be mine really soon!

I don’t recommend letting the thing idle, without first turning down the DS volume lest the looping pipe music main theme bore a hole into your brain like a Phantasm sphere.

Shining Stars Super Starcade offers single card and multi-card wireless play. Allegedly, seven out of the fifteen park games can be multi-player. I don’t have friends with Nintendo Dual Screens, so I cannot confirm this thing.

Wait a tick. . . There are only 15 games. My box says that there are “19 exciting Arcade Games!” (It isn’t on any of the box art shown on the internet, but it is clearly has it printed on the bottom of the star on my box.)
LIARS!
SEE!

They must be counting dragging the panda around as an exciting arcade game. And maybe buying the other games. That’s only seventeen. . . Maybe, exchanging smileys with other stuffed animals is an exciting arcade game as well. . . All right, we’ll call that eighteen. They must be counting either STAFF CREDITS or adjusting the game’s volume as an exciting arcade game.

And speaking of that box, man oh man, I’m glad the animals in the game aren’t as ugly as those on the game’s box. Look at that horrifying mutant tiger. It looks like it is made out of Nerf.

Let’s jump to a quick scoring summary.

Story / Modes

It’s almost got a story, and at least offers multiple mini-games. Of course, a number of DS titles (e.g. New Super Mario Bros.) will afford you a comparable amount of much better mini-games, as a mere bonus to their central gameplay.

Story/Modes Rating: Poor

Graphics

Nothing to write home about. Move along.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sound

The pipe music has drilled a hole into my head. Thankfully nothing else in the game, aurally speaking, is quite so bothersome.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control / Gameplay

Not only can I not ride my space scooter, I can’t even crash into it. Fail controls are fail.

Control & Gameplay Rating: Bad

Replayability

Well, you can’t replay certain levels once they’ve been beaten, and won’t want to replay many of the mini-games. You can’t start the game as a new character without losing all of your data. If you Max Level all of the mini-games, there is essentially nothing to do.

Replayability Rating: Dreadful

Balance

Most of the games are ludicrously easy. I mean, how hard is Concentration when there are only about 16 cards, and you aren’t penalized for guessing incorrectly? How hard is it to connect the dots?

Meanwhile, the mini-game “Feed the Clown” has stayed at level one, despite repeated attempts to get to level 2. “Feed the Clown” requires the player to take a genius level course in Newtonian mechanics, specializing in the parabolic motion of 2 dimensional-objects traveling through the z dimension of a 2 dimensional plane. Upon completion of this course, one must hit oneself in the head with the business end of a claw hammer.

I hate you “Feed the Clown”. I’m letting that joker starve.

Balance Rating: Dreadful

Originality

This game is a collection of mini-games. The contained mini-games are inferior versions of games which are readily available to play for free on hundreds of internet sites. Portability is the only advantage that Shining Stars Super Starcade has over PBSkids.org or Nick Jr.’s website or Disney.com or Toontown or Buildabearville.com, etc. Not counting portability, all these things blow this game out of the water.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

Addictiveness

I only played this game to review it. My daughter, who will spend hours on Cooking Mama remaking the same sandwich, only played this game 2 or 3 times for a grand total of maybe 15 minutes.

My wife, on the other hand, is a lover of mindless sorting and will play Super Starcade for long stretches. I’ll let her bring up the curve, and say that the game is somewhat less addictive than knitting.

And playing Super Starcade isn’t going to make me a scarf anytime soon.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

Appeal Factor

I have a kid. I can name all the Doodlebops, all the Wiggles, all of the characters on Arthur and tell you what instruments they all play. I’ve never heard of these toys. The boxart does not make them look appealing. There are plenty other kids games out there, with plenty more recognizable characters.

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

Miscellaneous

It never seems like much thought was put into this game. Take for instance, “Donut Dash”, the donut making game. It is one of the few mini-games that feels like an actual game. You have to make a number of donuts that match the donuts that pop out of the deep fryer. You push a button to have a donut drop from the ceiling, and then add frosting or chocolate or pineapple on top until it looks like the adjacent donut or until you hit the wrong topping.
For one thing, the toppings don’t look like they’re supposed to, and it will take a lot of trial and error to see what the ingredients actually look like on the donuts. For another thing, what is a donut with sprinkles doing popping out of the deep fryer? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your naked donuts come out of the fryer and have the already made donuts come out of the magical chute in the ceiling?

Or we can look at the water fight game. You use the stylus to move the player, to pick up the water, and to throw the water at your opponent. This is a nightmare. Who would make controls like these? Wouldn’t it have made sense to just use the d-pad and buttons for this thing?

Miscellaneous Rating = Bad

The Final Rating
Pretty Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
I feel bad giving such a negative review to a bunch of stuffed animals. It’s like punching out Barney the dinosaur only to have a room full of kids ask you “why?” The game is only 20 bucks, and you can probably have fun with it if you are the sort that enjoys mindless flash games or organizing your sock drawer.

My days of playing Shining Stars: Super Starcade are over, though. I think my daughter’s are too, as it never captured her interest. (Rather than playing this thing, she spent the weekend schooling 20-somethings in Mario Kart Wii.)

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