Game review: Totally Spies! totally insulting. Girls deserve much, much better

I'm clearly not the target audience for this game. I've never seen the cartoon Totally Spies, I'm not a pre-teen girl, and nothing with a mini-game called “Let's Talk about Clothes” was ever created with me in mind. But having said all of that, I feel I'm still qualified to judge whether or not a game is good based on its intrinsic merits. Is it well made, does it work well, is the fundamental game play fun or interesting – in short, does it achieve what it's trying to accomplish?

Unless Totally Spies! Totally Party is trying to engender a hatred for video games among young women, then this game is a total failure.

The premise of the show Totally Spies seems like a solid kid-show premise: three roomates who move into an apartment above a top secret spy agency and are thus recruited to become spies themselves. Their ensuing adventures involve fighting wacky villains, dressing up in different fun outfits, and using nifty spy gadgets like jet packs. There is a lot here to make a game out of, plenty of exciting elements where you could capture whatever it is about the show that it's fans enjoy.

Or, instead, you could make it into a virtual board game with 35 of the most inane mini-games ever created for the Nintendo Wii (and there's a lot of competition).

When I chose my spy – Clover – and started the story mode, I got a fun little animated segment where the stuffy, Charlie-esque spy dude reminded me of a previous enemy that we girls had beaten once before. There were clips from what I assume is an episode of the show and they featured the heroines fighting some crazy woman who made giant robots. Fighting giant robots! Awesome. I was ready for action. And every level is like this – you get introduced to some villain from the show who's doing something exciting and evil and then you get dumped into the worst board game in the world.

You and the villain trade turns rolling a die and moving your boring-ass tokens around a board. There are basically only two kinds of spaces – compacts and stars. The compacts give you gadgets, of which there are about five different versions, all of them dull (jet boots let you move one extra space!). Stars open mini games. If you beat the mini game, you leave a trap there, and if the villain lands on the trap she takes damage. Do enough damage and the villain is defeated. There is NO strategy here, and because the random die rolls determine the villain's fate, games can go on and on and on. It's like the designers weren't even trying a tiny little bit.

The mini games, which make up the bulk of actual game play, are just insulting. Some are sort of spy-related, like jumping over freeze rays by wiggling the Wii-mote. Others are “girl” things, like slamming doors in your friend's face to keep her from shopping or randomly picking from five icons (dress, perfume, belt, handbag, sunglasses) to try and impress a boy you like. I showed this game to my friend Janelle, who while not a pre-teen, is a female who enjoys games. She was insulted and appalled and actually yelled out, “Why do games for girls have to suck!?!?”

She was insulted by this game, and she should be. It's insulting, and not just to girls but to anyone who plays it. Now, most games that are adaptations of other media properties usually do in fact suck, so there's nothing new here. But all the same, there's something extra insulting about a game that's not only bad as a game but also trades in annoying, insulting stereotypes while it's generally stinking up the place. Did I mention there's a mini-game where you slam doors in your friends' faces to stop them from shopping too much? And it's not even a fun or hard or interesting game.

Totally Spies! Totally Party is Totally Crap. It's available for the Wii and probably costs around $40 but it's so bad I'm not going to link to where you can buy it, because I refuse to encourage that kind of behavior.

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