Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

American Girl: Julie Saves the Eagles

American Girl: Julie Saves the Eagles

Spring 2008 Software
Ages: 8 - 11 yrs.
Producer: ImaginEngine
Price: $19.95
Platform: Windows XP/Vista
Based on the popular "American Girl" dolls, books and merchandise promoted as celebrating a girl's "inner star," this game outwardly stars animated 9-year-old Julie Albright, a blonde-haired, girl-next-door sweetie living in San Francisco in the '70s.

The plot: Julie catches up with her VBF, Ivy, an Asian-American girl, in Chinatown and sets off on an Earth-Day trip through Bay Area locations. The two have plenty to do, or so it seems. As they bus and hike around, the girls talk to people, collect objects (which go into Julie's backpack), learn about endangered species among other things, and end up trying to save a family of bald eagles.

Tasks and mini-games emerge throughout the adventure and must be done to progress in the game and unlock other locations that lead eventually to the needy eagles at San Bruno Mountain. Along the way, Julie plays the ancient Chinese game "Nim" with Ivy's grandfather, researches a herbal remedy for stomach aches at the school library, identifies a rare butterfly in Golden Gate Park, and helps her mom sort beads in her Gladrags shop. The girls cheerfully visit the library more than once to look up information needed to complete tasks. Julie jots down notes in her diary (players actually key in some of them). And, when confused, Julie gets advice from her mom, and some hints from Ivy.

What's great about this game is simply exploring San Francisco, from Chinatown to Golden Gate Park to North Beach. But while the Bay Area graphics are pretty decent, the so-so 2D animation doesn't compare to another popular girl's-gaming series--the Nancy Drew mysteries. Besides, there's just not enough of San Francisco to explore in this game because every scene dead-ends way too soon. After chatting with a person or two, walking past four building facades, and undertaking a task or two, the girls always have to hop a bus to somewhere else.

The adventure is also limited in other ways. Navigating Julie (Ivy just sort of follows like a lemming) around the streets and parks using mouse or keyboard arrow buttons is not easy, mostly because Julie gets blocked by anything in her way-fire hydrants, light poles, flowers-and the controls aren't forgiving. Players choose Julie's questions or comments from a multiple-choice dialogue pop-up box, but the dialogue choices get repetitive. It'd be cool if the girls could go inside the shops and restaurants but they can't. Sure, noise of downtown traffic can be heard throughout the game, but no vehicles ever pass by-so the girls can walk down the middle of the empty streets! And scenes are populated by only one or two people at most.

All of which undermines a game that has plenty of potential at the start-a cute, smart, adventuresome girl, a fun city and all day Saturday to explore with a friend.
Don Oldenburg   ©2008 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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