One of the most underrated games i’ve ever played, has to be Barbie: Secret Agent. I know what you’re thinking, but man, the game was fun, intuitive, and a bit complex at times for a Barbie title. With a solid IGN metacritic score of 75% and a 7.5/10 star rating, i’m not the only one who found something entertaining and intriguing in Barbie’s universe, for what’s been called “the best Metal Gear knock-off that the GBA has.”
Back in 2002 (12 years ago) my cousin and I both owned the Gameboy Advanced handhelds, and while we didn’t necessarily share the same tastes in gaming, we would at times switch games, just to try out each others taste. One of our trades ended up with me receiving Barbie: Secret Agent, which I immediately had written off as a girly Barbie game, that I originally had no interest in. Though, since she was really giving my trade (Megaman Zero) a try, I decided it would only be fair if I gave Barbie an actual shot, and I ended up enjoying myself immensely.
Barbie: Secret Agent is a puzzle platformer, which pits Barbie against thieves who’ve stolen the royal crown jewels from an international museum. Barbie takes the initiative to stop the robbers, and along the way she uses gadgets and problem solving to achieve her goals. While the game is action packed, it requires more thinking, as rushing into most situations will get you caught, Barbie must utilize her gadgets to stealthily sneak past the enemies.
One of the reasons this game works so much, is the emphasis of action over everything else in the game. Barbie comes equipped with a stealth ring, smokescreen, and spy puppy the player must strategically use to get by and defeat enemies while traversing the levels. Traversal takes Barbie to vastly different and colorful locations on 16 different missions, with movement not only limited to walking, as Barbie takes a hold of jet-skis and rides on horseback for certain missions. Vehicles, Gadgets and intelligent female protagonists and antagonists make Barbie:Secret Agent a truly unique experience. Of course outfit swaps, and pretty pink cars are available, but collectibles give replay value, and if you can get past the pretty in pink, (which isn’t too hard since it’s not in your face) you can enjoy an underrated GBA classic. (There’s also GBA codes you can enter to help you along the way with unlockables).
Check out a part of what IGN’s review had to say about Barbie: Secret Agent
Barbie: Secret Agent is “surprisingly complex.” “It’s also very competent in the gameplay department, which is another rarity in girls’ games… Gameplay is a bit like Prince of Persia with some stealth mixed in… The racing stages are just simple choose-a-path slot racers, but there’s a number of mini-stages that are pretty fun — they include standards such as Pong and Qix, but they’re still simple fun for the short time they last. Barbie: Secret Agent is one of the uncommon few that works well for the young gamers it’s for — the control is easy to handle, the level of difficulty is appropriate and involving, the graphics are colorful and cheery, the game design is creative and fun, and there’s a bunch of things to collect along the way (including pallet-swaps of outfits, cars and ponies.)”
Check out the entire review on IGN.