This is a pretty unique idea for families looking for ways to entertain themselves on a rainy afternoon when everyone is climbing the walls – a DVD board game where everything needed is on-screen. The spinner, which determines how many places each person moves, is even on-screen and that, along with question selection, is easily activated by the DVD player's remote control.
So, here is the good stuff first, garnered from a few rounds of play with my six-year-old son. This game can be played by up to 4 members of the family, or with only one player, which is great for families with only 1 child. The game centers around four cute pups from past Disney flicks like The Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmatians, and Lady and the Tramp. Mickey's dog, Pluto, joins the fun as well. The navigability of the game is super-easy, and there are two levels of play, an easier one and one for die-hard Disney trivia buffs. All questions are dog-related, and the characters are just extremely cute; if you forget to "spin," your character looks back at you plaintively and wags its tail. The best, most engaging tasks, involve guessing what a puzzle will be before it is completely together, paying close attention to film clips and answering questions about it, and choosing a hole for one's character to dig up in order to find a prize. The game is highly engaging, and even though it takes about one round to get the hang of it, that fact is no different than when one buys a brand new board game – there is always a slight learning curve. To win, a player must collect three gold ribbons in order to become "Best in Show," where a big fuss is made over him and a gold cup is awarded. Very cute.
Now for the bad news. Like many Disney releases, the game at times feels like an overblown commercial for other Disney products. I wish the marketers would just relax. We know that Disney markets lots and lots and lots of merchandise. It would be nice not to be continually reminded of it, especially in the shameless manner in which Disney engages in it sometimes. Even on the easy level, kids under the age of about 8 or so will need help from parents with some of the questions. There were certain features mentioned I had never heard of, and I grew up on Disney. My son's least favorite feature was the trivia questions for that very reason, and parents who are hoping the game will buy them a few minutes to do the dishes or get dinner in the oven may be disappointed at constant requests to help out on trivia questions they might not be able to answer themselves.
Overall, the game is very well done and quite imaginative. For families where dogs are revered, including this disc into its entertainment library would be a no-brainer.
Presented in fullscreen, the picture is absolutely brilliant, as is the case for most Disney releases. It is a vital component of engaging players in the game, and it does not disappoint. The colors are vibrant, the lines are sharp, and overall, the experience is visually stunning.
This disc features English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and the experience was almost as good as sitting in a movie theater, despite the fact that there are no real special effects required given the nature of the game. It is basically occasional barking and the smooth sound of the narrator's voice. The score is quite basic, which is a good thing, as it complements the action rather than taking over.
There are no extras except for the ubiquitous coming attractions that pervade every Disney DVD, but never fear. The game is like one long, extended extra.
This one is recommended as a rental first, if only to ensure that the family is going to enjoy it before making an actual purchase. Given that the suggested retail price is still far below that of many games for home video or portable systems and that no special equipment needs to be purchased in order to use it, however, many families may consider it a welcome investment.