This may be my shortest review on record (did I just hear a sigh of relief out there?). Disney has released the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play, an interactive disc filled with fun games that your Hannah Montana-obsessed child can easily play on your DVD player, with the aid solely of your remote (or your computer keyboard if you're watching this on a DVD-capable PC). The games allow for one to five or more players (slumber party!), and all of them are "hosted" (with voice-overs that not only explain the games, but provide answers and scores) by Emily Osment, who plays Hannah's friend, Lilly Truscott, on The Disney Channel smash hit. Since this is, technically, a "video game" (even though, again, it is meant to be played on any ordinary DVD player), it is labeled with an ESRB content rating of "E" for everyone, with "comic mischief," and "mild suggestive themes."
The disc opens, helpfully, with the main menu offering thorough instructions for all the games. All instructions are spoken, so even little kids shouldn't have any difficulties following the directions (a nice bonus is a written instructional booklet for parents who may not catch on quite so quick with the DVD features). As I try to do with any kind of title like Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play, I grabbed one of my younger kids to play along, to see how they enjoyed the disc, and how well it was designed, with little kids in mind (not that it was hard to convince her to play; when she saw the title, we had to rush out the smelling salts).
The games are divided by how many players can play. Games for 1 - 4 players include Hannah Montana Trivia Challenge, Pop Star, Dance Off, Band Audition, Seeing Stars Memory Game, and Personality Quiz. Hannah Montana Trivia Challenge is just what it sounds like: actual clips from the show, as well as audio clues from Lilly and still pictures of the cast, make up the 20 multiple-choice questions you're given (and you can choose the level of expertise, as well). A nice feature included on this and the other games is an automatic hidden answer mode for more than one player (that way, stinky Jenny, who's always cheating at school, can't over at the Mavis house. Or yours). At the end of the game, you get a prize, based on how well you did (I got, to paraphrase Charlie Brown, a coconut).
Pop Star isn't scored, because it's not really a game. It's karaoke, with the image of a microphone pointed at you, the viewer, while you look out into a darkened arena. The lyrics of the songs are highlighted so you can sing along with Hannah, who rocks out seven songs: Nobody's Perfect, The Best of Both Worlds, If We Were a Movie, Rock Star, Who Said, Life's What You Make It, and I Got Nerve. My daughter particularly enjoyed this section. I, on the other hand, was told specifically not to sing.
Dance Off is a pretty cool game that has Lilly giving you instructions on eight cool new dance moves. Skill levels are varied, and a screen comes up illustrating the dance moves for you first, with Lilly explaining them, before you choose to do them on your own. Again, I was told to sit down, but my daughter had no trouble navigating some of the easier dance moves (she wanted to stay on this section longer, but I told her I had a deadline, so we moved on...to the sounds of her screaming to her mother that, "Dad's not playing nice!").
Band Audition is kind of like that old hand-held computer game, Simon, where increasingly difficult patterns of light and sound have to be imitated by the player. Here, a set of drums are illuminated by strikes, and you have to use your remote to mimic them. It's not that Band Audition was tough (she was able to "foom...foom, foom, foom, foom! through it rather quickly), but for whatever reason, it was dismissed as a "boy's game," by my daughter and it was quickly abandoned. I wanted to linger, but having no truck after kicking her off the last one, I reluctantly moved on.
Seeing Stars Memory Game is a surprisingly difficult matching game, where Hannah's locker is opened, and all the faces of the Hannah Montana cast are displayed. You can choose the time you allow yourself to memorize their position, and then it's up to you to place each subsequent character that pops up, into their rightful position on the locker door. Screw up three times, and you're out. There's no score (and a good thing, too).
Personality Quiz isn't really a "game," either (there's no score), but questions are asked of the players, who are then matched up with a Hannah Montana character that best suits their scored personality. This one was fun when we intentionally screwed up answers to see who we would wind up being (evidently, it's hysterically funny for a six-year-old girl to see her father's personality match that of a little girl).
2-4 players games on the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play include obviously the previous games I've listed, as well as Keep the Beat and True Friends?. In Keep the Beat, a subject is revealed (like Password) and you have to clap along with the beat. When it's your turn to give out a clue, you better get it right, or you lose your turn. This game is less "interactive," technically, than most of the other games here, but it's a lot of fun because everybody starts yelling and accusing everybody of missing a turn or screwing up an answer. In True Friends?, you have to guess the answers to five questions about your friends (your answers are hidden automatically), and then you're "scored" on whether or not you really know your best friend. It's a cruel game, essentially, with the potential to ruin friendships and cause emotional scars that could warp a kid for life - if you play it right. Unfortunately, I didn't, and we just wound up having fun, instead.
Party Play games are for bigger groups of 4 and more, so I had to grab a couple of my older boys to help out (for which I received a few mumbled words that I couldn't quite catch, and which were fobbed of as, "Nothing, nothing!" when I threatened them to tell me). All three games -- Say What?!, Art Class, and Hellooo Drama - require that you split up the players into two teams (the games suggest one group be called "Pop Stars," and the other, "The Super Fans"). You can choose to play 5, 10, or 15 rounds, with 20, 30, or 45 seconds time limit for each question. Say What?! is somewhat like The 25,000 Pyramid, where you're given a Hannah Montana-related subject you have to describe to your team -- without using the three word clues the game lists. Art Class is rather like Win, Lose, or Draw, where you have to draw a picture, related to a Hannah Montana subject, of course, and have your group guess it correctly before time runs out (I tried to draw Rico's beach shop, and I was told I had drawn an elephant). And Hellooo Drama! is like charades, in that you have to act out a Hannah Montana-related subject, but of course, with no words spoken (I was told by my wise-guy teenaged son, that my approximation of a rock star more closely resembled someone with an advanced case of bird flu. He was, of course, right. And he was also summarily grounded).
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen transfer for the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play is digital perfection, with eye-popping, candy-colored comic book visuals, and a super-sharp image.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound stereo mix is quite strong, as it should be, for the numerous songs Miley Cyrus sings here. Good levels all the way through, with most of the action right up front.
There are no extras for the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play, except for the ubiquitous Disney trailers for upcoming DVD releases.
Remember: this can be played on any regular DVD player. The Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play is packed with a quite a few fun interactive games that your Hannah Montana-obsessed kid can enjoy either on their own, or with groups of two or more. The games are littered with clips from the show, as well as Lilly talking your child through each and every game. There are plenty of Hannah Montana songs to sing along with, as well. Judging by my own daughter's reaction, I can pretty safely bet that the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play would be an excellent stocking stuffer this Christmas. I recommend the Hannah Montana - DVD Game: Sing, Dance, Act, Play.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.