The Aly & AJ Adventure
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-11-18 Nintendo DS Mini-games E (Everyone) DSI Games

I'm a music fanatic, no ifs, ands or buts. If I go a day without music of some form in my life, I'm not really living. My MP3 player is filled with mostly rock and alternative, but I also have my fair share of guilty pleasures, one of which is the theme of one of DSI's newest offerings for the Nintendo DS: Aly &AJ.

For those that aren't familiar, and as I'm sure any tween girl in your life could tell you, Aly & AJ is one of the smash music sensations picked up by the Disney Channel, along the lines of Hannah Montana (aka Miley Cyrus) and the Jonas Brothers.

Sisters Alyson and Amanda Joy have made many appearances on Disney Channel programming, but spend the majority of their time rocking out on stages in mall tours and the like, performing songs from their CD's "Into the Rush" and "Insomniatic". That being said, it's easy to conclude that their music and therefore their game is catered to a very specialized audience, and should be perfect for any young girl or Disney Channel fan in your life.

Your adventure starts as you choose and name a character from a pre-made set. The cartoon designs match well with the overall graphical feel of the game with bright colors and soft angles, much like the old cartoons you used to see on TV. Likewise, Aly and AJ themselves have been turned into cartoon characters, and are presented as the teen fashionistas that they are, with wildly stylized blonde hair and bright clothing and accessories. The designs are fashion-forward, sure, but the clothing is never revealing enough to cause a frenzy, which makes the game immediately better than most other games targeted at young girls (Bratz anyone?).

You are told to tag along with the girls to make sure their tour runs smoothly as you travel through Hollywood, Tokyo, New York and London. Your adventure takes place through several mini-games, like "Unpacking Party", which has you reorganizing the girls' suitcases after they were messed up on the plane. Items will appear on the top screen that each girl wants to find the compliment for. Three or so items will show up on the bottom screen and you must use the stylus to touch the complimentary item. For instance, if AJ wants to wear her fancy black dress, you would need to click on the high heels that go with them, and so on.

Other mini-games include video shoots which are very much like whack-a-mole on a control panel, concert rehearsals where you are in control of the lighting on stage, and must meet certain cues as the song progresses, and concerts themselves, that have you taking the role of one of the band members and challenge you to keep time to the beat.

There are over a dozen mini-games in all, with a massive change in difficulty throughout. Some of the levels, like the unpacking party mentioned above, are exceedingly easy, while others have much more of a challenge. After each mini-game you are ranked on your performance using a grading scale from C at the bottom to AAA! at the very top.

You have to receive at least an A to pass each level, and it is very possible to fail missions entirely when you are first trying them out, since directions beforehand are lacking. If you do happen to fail a mission, you have three lives to play with, so it isn't the end of the world. And if you find yourself on your last life, you can go repeat some of the earlier tasks, to earn those coveted AAA!s that provide you with extra lives.

While most of the mini-games are designed well enough, a certain few have symbols popping up all over the screen, and while you are covering the screen with your hand reaching for a symbol at the far left of the screen, you are missing points as things go by that you don't even see.

Apart from those few bad design choices, the game is actually pretty fun, even if it is aimed at a much younger age bracket than my own. How much fun any one person can have with the game will obviously depend on their level of appreciation for Aly & AJ's music, since it of course serves as the soundtrack for the game.

An extra for fans of the girls is the ability to unlock their songs to play outside of the adventure mode. Unfortunately, you only receive a couple of minutes from each song, instead of the whole thing, but it is as close to CD quality as you can get on a DS. There are seven songs to unlock in all, which include their two biggest singles 'Chemicals React" and "Potential Breakup Song".

In this day and age when most toys aimed at girls are concerned with sexy-ing them up at too young an age, it's great to see a game that is more concentrated on music than anything else and that is actually fun. Sure, fashion and makeup play minor roles in the Aly & AJ Adventure, but compared to other titles out there (again, Bratz anyone?) this is a much more acceptable gift idea for young girls, or anyone who just so happens to love their music as much as I do.

Special thanks to Alison Kain and DSI Games for providing a copy of this title.