Secret Agent Barbie

Hankies at the ready, this is a sad story. When I was five, I desperately wanted a Barbie, but my parents couldn't afford one (are those violins I hear?). In the end, I had to make do with a cheap fake from the corner shop.

Of course, this scarred me for life. It also started my obs-session with everything related to the fantastic, plastic, blonde bombshell, including this game in which our heroine's hush-hush mission is to stop the creation of a special suit that renders the wearer invisible. Teresa is the friend who has called in the team to help catch the thief who has stolen some of her fashions made of the top-secret fabric.

Babs and her intrepid spy team travel the world in their secret intelligence jumbo jet, taking in five top couture locations including New York, Paris and Tokyo. To complete their action-packed mini-missions, Barbie and her entourage must interact with various characters to help decode clues and use secret agent gadgets to solve puzzles.

True to Barbie's politically correct pink world, agent Christie pilots the plane while Barbie's long-term boyfriend Ken is kept well and truly in his place as co-pilot. With the flying taken care of, Barbie can sneak off to the onboard VR Training Centre to hone her secret agent skills.

Cybersleuth Becky can be summoned at any point with the Help button to coach Barbie or assist with breaking codes and analysing data. She also offers overviews of all the hi-tech gadgets and provides general mission support throughout the game.

Among Barbie's arsenal of special secret agent hi-tech gadgets is a variety of cosmetic weapons, including a compact from which she blows pink powder into the faces of guards so she can slip past undetected, a lipstick recorder for taping private conversations and a perfume bottle for tracking people by scent.

Pink-vision glasses give X-ray sight for solving puzzles, and a variety of other gizmos, from a camera to a PDA, can be used to collect clues and play games.

My favourite gadget, however, is a remote-control robot spy-puppy that distracts guards and gets into small places where even super-waif Barbie can't fit. You can also choose from a variety of different outfits for each mission, although the options are a little disappointing.

There are three activity modes - Adventure, Stealth and Action - each combining different outfits with special moves enabling Barbie to run, jump, tumble and even blend into the environment as you guide her on each adventure. Barbie is easily moved around onscreen by using the arrow keys, with the spacebar enabling the special moves.

At the end of her mission, Barbie performs a daredevil skydive from her customised jet to her final destination: the perfect ending to a very enjoyable adventure with the queen of pink and her band of manicured, coiffured friends. Ideal for the Barbie-fixated, whether five or 35 years old.

Publisher: Vivendi Universal.

Developer: Mattel Interactive.

URL: www.vivendi-universal-interactive.co.uk.

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