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

Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow

Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow

Spring 2009 Video Games
Ages: All Ages
Producer: Disney Online
Gaming System: Online
Disney's latest virtual online world for kids, Pixie Hollow, is an engaging, fun and fantastic journey into the world where Tinker Bell dwells. Based on the hugely popular Disney Fairies franchise, which includes the 2008 animated "Tinker Bell" movie, new Pixie Hollow attractions at the Disney theme parks and countless spinoff toys, dolls and other products, Pixie Hollow's friendly, cozy and safe virtual environment lets little girls role play as fairies in the land of fairies.

Disney is no newcomer to creating fantasy worlds-including online ones. And Pixie Hollow's warm, rich and colorful graphics and its smooth animation attest to its commitment and talent for designing a high-quality online experience.

Starting out, kids create their own cute fairy avatar, choosing its physical features (facial, hair, skin color, wing size, other options, but not gender-only girl fairies here). Kids also pick an outfit and their fairy's talent (animals, plants, water….). Then, they name their fairy from multiple fairy-world word combinations. Ours is Ginger Grassydew, who sports a blonde pixie haircut, has a talent for plants and favors green clothes.

So what do visiting fairies do in Pixie Hollow? Pixie Hollow is all about wide-open play. Kids explore meadow worlds, tree-top communities and forest-like neighborhoods, making friends with other fairies, playing mini games and shopping in fairy boutiques. At the beginning, Pixie Hollow lists 70 "servers"-locations where your fairy can start her adventure. Each is real-time rated as "Crowded," "Ideal" or "Quiet"-indicating how many other fairies are already there. These interconnected places have names like Blueberry Bluffs, Snowcap Glade, Starflower Gully and Sugar Heights-a bit saccharine, but not for little girls.

Players click-and-drag their fairies to fly them around, from one lush location to the next. The controls are zippy and easy. The background music is sweet Disney orchestral fairy music. There's no advertising, other than Disney's links to its own actual online store outside of Pixie Hollow. If that brand of commercialism is troublesome, be aware of its existence. Parents can control aspects of their child's play and limit, or expand, their social interaction.

Social interacting? That occurs almost nonstop and everywhere here since other little fairies (with other little girls controlling them from somewhere worldwide) ask to become your fairy's friends. And your fairy can ask them to be friends, too. Choices are yes, no or ignore-sort of like real life, though simplified. They can also use the SpeedChat feature that lets them communicate from drop-down menus for words and phrases-from "hello" and "goodbye" to "yes" and slightly more expressive phrases. SpeedChat Plus requires parental permission and lets fairies key in brief messages. It's a moderated and filtered option that bans bad language and posting personal info.

There are also plenty of games to play, quests to undertake and virtual stores to shop. In the Snowcap Glade, our fairy played the Snowflake Sweep game where she dragged falling snowflakes to pouches. In Pumpkin Patch, she played a fun, Tetrus-like game. Other mini games range from bouncing fish inside bubbles upstream, to helping fireflies light up, to looping flower petals. None are hard but all increase in difficulty. Succeeding at the games earns fairies rewards-acorns and seeds-that can be cashed in at virtual boutiques for new hairstyles, new outfits, furniture and accessories for your fairy's virtual home. But you've got to play a lot because nothing's cheap-perhaps a lesson in working hard for what you want.

The good news is that Disney has created a cool site online for young girls-and they can try it for free before Mom or Dad have to pull out the credit card.

Don Oldenburg   ©2009 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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