The adorable panda bear, Lola, is back at it again. This time she's putting her life as a train conductor in the past, and is instead throwing a party...of knowledge. Being the second game in the series to focus on basic ABC's and spelling, following Lola's Alphabet Train on DSiWare back in 2012, does this educational celebration deserve the attendance of your children — or is Lola too unbearable to be worthy of company?
Showing at Lola's house on the day of her party, she requests your assistance with three tasks before the rest of the guests arrive. There’s an empty bowl waiting to be filled with mounds of ice cream, undecorated cakes primed for toppings, and a line-up of various balloons awaiting their helium injection. With the stylus, just tap any of these objects in the scene and off you go.
Instead of diving right into the selected task, Lola suggests that you partake in ABC mini-games while you wait. The focus of these ranges from light spelling, letter recognition, differentiating lower and upper case letters, and even memory. All are of a very similar “tap this” or “drag that” format, ensuring immediate accessibility; as kids progress and their performance improves, the challenges gradually increase in difficulty.
Once a set of mini-games has been completed, the tasks you initially opted into are then presented as a reward, of sorts. These are little interactive scenes that have no right or wrong answer, but instead allow children to fool around and exercise a little creativity. Blowing up balloons is a simple matter of dragging desired balloons to the helium pump, holding down the lever, and then replacing with the next in line. Populating the cake and ice cream with candles and toppings functions in the same manner, and is equally simple to get into. We have to question the long-term appeal of these rewards considering there are only three of them, each with limited interactions, but regardless, they should do their job up front.
Returning from previous instalments, the actress that voices Lola — once again — does a great job. Her presence is soothing and inviting, which young children should find comforting. There are a couple of situations that we felt could've benefited from slightly more descriptive instructions, but it's a minor oversight that shouldn't lead to any boo-boos. Keep in mind, the game is aimed at children 3-7, so you may need to assist them to a degree as they're getting started, anyway.
If there's a reason you should hesitate attending Lola's ABC Party, it's that this is pretty much the same game as Lola's Alphabet Train. Sure, the setting is different, but the learning activities are of the exact same nature. If your children haven't made friends with Lola just yet, this is something we can recommend without a doubt. However, if you still have Alphabet Train downloaded on your DS or 3DS, you may find this to be a pointless purchase.
Once again, Lola has showed up to offer a solid learning tool for children just getting familiarized with the alphabet. Sporting colourful and friendly visuals, great voice talent and accessible learning exercises, Lola's ABC Party is a pretty happening place to be for kids ages 3-7. There are minor concerns that we've highlighted in this review — similarity to previous instalments and lasting appeal, mostly — but these shouldn't stand between your child and what we think is an educational experience that will yield results.