It’s no easy task setting out to create a game that is wholesome and fun while maintaining an educational aspect. Unfortunately for Smart Girl’s Playhouse Mini, fun seems to have jumped ship, and all you’re left with is a too-sweet edutainment title with very little actual gameplay on offer.
Touted as a collection of mini-games for young girls, Smart Girl’s Playhouse Mini reveals itself to be a collection of six short activities with limited interactivity, making it difficult to define all of them as “games.” While they are clearly targeting the young generation of female gamers, there isn't much to be desired in this package.
Among the aforementioned activities are Dress Up and Lunch Box. Dress Up has you choosing different outfits and hairstyles for your character, while Lunch Box has you filling a lunchbox with different food choices. And that’s all they do. You can’t export the images of your character or lunchbox to your SD card, so there’s literally nothing you can do with these.
Two of the other activities on-hand are aptly titled Drawing and Coloring. Drawing is essentially a dumbed-down version of MS Paint, and Coloring is the exact same thing, except there are 12 pre-existing pictures to choose from for you to colour in. Again, none of your images can be exported, so you’re stuck with simply looking at them in the game.
Of the six activities provided, the two that actually take any sort of skill to complete and can be considered “games” are titled Counting and Find Differences. In Counting, you will be shown an image on the DSi’s top screen and you must identify how many times that image appears. It’s straightforward, and literally just has you counting pictures, but it can be an effective tool for teaching younger gamers basic numbers. Find Differences follows the basic “find the difference between these two images” formula. One version of a picture is displayed on the DSi’s top screen while a different version is displayed on the touchscreen; all you have to do is simply touch the differences between the two images. Again, very basic, but a useful learning tool for the kids.
With the exception of the game selection screen, everything in Smart Girl’s Playhouse Mini is controlled using the DSi’s touchscreen. The controls are tight, but that’s what’s expected with a game that is as undemanding as this one.
The art style, meanwhile, is simplistic and looks mostly hand-drawn. While this can have an endearing effect with certain games, the basic art style mixed with the simplistic gameplay just makes it seem lazy, almost as though there wasn’t very much effort put into making this game look good. The same can be said about the completely forgettable soundtrack, which takes classic children’s songs such as “This Old Man” and turns them into upbeat and repetitive tunes that grate after a short while.
For its target audience of very young girls, Smart Girl’s Playhouse Mini could be much worse, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. It delivers a small compilation of activities that might keep young children occupied for a limited time, but that’s about all it has going for it. The activities are shallow and can all be played through in a matter of minutes, but they offer up just enough replayability to keep the younger fans entertained. Adults, or any gamers over the age of 10, will needless to say find very little here to keep them interested.