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Barney's Hide and Seek (Genesis) artwork

Barney's Hide and Seek (Genesis) review


"Barney is enough to convince most people that dinosaurs went extinct for a very good reason. This pacifistic mass of purple and green foam was invented solely to entertain developing children not yet sophisticated enough to speak or eat with a closed mouth. We were all once like that, but even now I can recall never being inclined towards this goofy-voiced Tyrannosaurus Rex bursting with love, even at an age when one isn't expected to have discriminating tastes. My Kindergarten classmates..."



Barney is enough to convince most people that dinosaurs went extinct for a very good reason. This pacifistic mass of purple and green foam was invented solely to entertain developing children not yet sophisticated enough to speak or eat with a closed mouth. We were all once like that, but even now I can recall never being inclined towards this goofy-voiced Tyrannosaurus Rex bursting with love, even at an age when one isn't expected to have discriminating tastes. My Kindergarten classmates' cries of joy whenever our teacher "assigned" us to watch a Barney video only mystified me when I found myself bored by being taught the same fundamental moral again and again and again: Love is good. I guess Barney is supposed to be loved because that's what he willingly doles out to every (mostly white) child. Sometimes Barney would gather up the courage to include a minority in his love-fests, but that sort of thing really depended on the mood of the increasingly depressed actor filling the purple suit. Tying in with the launch of the Barney PBS show, Barney's Hide & Seek Game was one of only a handful of Genesis games intended for this age group. As a result it loses a lot of challenge and replay value, and general play incentive for anyone old enough to enjoy Mario or Sonic.

Barney did not catch on as a platforming character because he appears painfully out of his element as himself much less in a video game, not to mention he's bossy and ever so determined to live, regardless of player input. Perhaps this is to decrease the difficulty curve. It's just a touch easier than Final Fantasy Mythic Quest, although to be fair this has much nicer graphics and almost no text on screen. "Hints for Grown-Ups" are offered before the game begins -- find five of Barney's child friends and five presents randomly scattered throughout each tableau -- then you're trapped in this very slow-moving roller coaster of love. BHSG presents a world of uncompromising cheer and togetherness, but closer examination reveals a bizarre and deeply disturbing undercurrent.

The purple lunk grabs the reins from the point the Sega logo appears: "BOIIING!!" Over the menu, a MIDI loop of "Yankee Doodle" sears the eardrums. The Tyrannosaurus commands you to play Hide and Seek with him, no questions asked. Wait too long and he'll start his own game, and begin his aimless perambulation with constant running commentary. Admittedly it's better than most 16-bit attempts at "speech". Wandering amongst the forest creatures, I had no interest in plucking a ripe carrot for a rail-thin rabbit, or helping green Triceratops Baby Bop get unstuck from a rotting log. The music, a horrifying medley of Teutonic marches and American folk songs, only made me want to leave each area. Barney's endless streams of kisses, complete with floating hearts, increased in intensity before I realized that BHSG cannot be paused. The only way to win is to press on. Or just put the controller down and Barney will do all the work for you.

Barney's comments are frequent and annoying, announcing the presence of items clearly "hidden" behind single leaves of grass or sitting on windswept bluffs. The "Sailor's Hornpipe" rang out every time I plundered a gift from one of my five children followers. I would leave the children hidden, of course, to test their survival skills once the sun sets and they're still waiting to be found. Barney is living proof that natural selection is a myth, and never failed to find different kids to "entertain". I romped with rogue roosters and ducks, spreading love to my fellow feral creatures. They would sometimes hump Barney, sometimes shoot out their own heart-streams. I got a real sense of bonding from them. Meanwhile, "Alouette", a song about bird plucking, metamorphizes into "Farmer in the Dell". I had a sudden urge to kill, but Barney's free will always interjects with a wet smooch. Barney would refuse to comply when I commanded him to plunge off a cliff, but he would just need to wait for a magic cloud of vapor to whisk him away to some other love-filled land, or slide down a cliffside on his tail.

The player has complete freedom over the actual gameplay when Barney isn't demonstrating his own free will. BHSG is a unique and non-violent platformer, lacking much challenge but compensating for lack of death with a surplus of "love". An eerie shot, echoing the photo in The Shining, shows all the children magically safe, as if they were still alive. But Music Town is an unfriendly place once the lights go down, and God have mercy on anyone trapped in a room with a bipedal trumpet and his rhythmless snare drum accomplice. Barney can always revert back to toy form, but his victims can only deal with the cruel reality of nature once the show's over.

This may also be the first auto-finishing game, complete with lengthy ending credits. BHSG is good for 10 minutes of colorful sappy self-esteem building, alternating with wanton theft and disregard for human life. Enter at your own risk.

Rating: 5/10

johnny_cairo's avatar
Community review by johnny_cairo (July 31, 2007)

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