Kid’s games are exceptionally difficult to make, which is why so many of them are terrible. Many companies vie for the tried and true method of making a few cookie cutter minigames and plastering a well-known children’s character/icon on it. Some companies like Humungous Entertainment and Disney found ways to make kid’s games that kid’s will actually enjoy playing; they’re complex without being too difficult and not too easy to the point of being condescending. Unfortunately this is 1983 and we’re stuck with whatever Spinnaker is releasing on the Commodore systems and a few sporadic releases on the current consoles like the Electric Company: Word/Math Fun and a few Coleco releases based on the Cabbage Patch Kids and Smurfs (I’m sure there are more on home computers but I only know of these few on console). Enter Parker Brothers who released a slew of licensed games between 1982 and 1984, but all of these were for the most part based on characters and products aimed at boys or were at the very least marketed to kids in general, but what about the girls? Well the girls got what is probably Parker Brothers’ worst released game, Strawberry Shortcake Musical Matchups, holy crap this game… Let’s begin where we always do, the graphics.
I’ll be honest here, the graphics are actually incredible, the spritework done is absolutely top notch. All five characters are colorful and complex to the point of actually looking like the character they’re meant to represent which is good frankly astounding for the 2600. The strange trellis gazebo thing they’re standing under is a bit odd looking, it resembles an extremely tall pink cupcake, or something I’d rather not talk about with kids nearby, the detail work is good and is passable as a whole. The background is okay the sky is blue and the sun is happy, the only other thing of note is the decent text they managed to get, it’s not often that you get legible writing on the 2600.
It may seem odd but I think more care was placed into the music that was into either the graphics or gameplay. Each character has a decently long harmonized tune that plays when they are matched, more on that later, each song is split up into three different parts, more on that later again. Some of the music is excellent with different instrumentation for each song giving each it’s own feel to fit in with its respective character, the rest is a series of high pitch squeals that rends all the flesh from your ears. My personal favorite tune is the Purple Pieman’s because it is the catchiest and is far different from the rest. And now for the gameplay…
Um… Where is it? I can’t seem to find any… This is a matching game where you put together three different parts of a character, head, torso, and legs. Upon matching all three parts and pressing the button you’ll hear the character’s complete song. If you don’t match the character parts but press the button anyway you’ll be treated to a messed up mish-mash of garbage, which would be an apt description of the game coincidentally. The manual for this game, which is a whopping four pages, is filled with the different game variations which simply add more things to match and a time limit. In one variation you have to match a character to the name displayed at the bottom and in another it’s the same thing but with a time limit, another is the same thing but with a faster time limit. I believe the final two variations have you matching the character and name to the song played at the beginning which is a bit more difficult but nowhere near engaging.
This game is boring, this game is repetitive, and worst of all its condescending. “Here kids, match these same five things for an hour, and do it again tomorrow too”, a game like this would be ideal for ages 1-4 not 4-7 like the box says, I know Strawberry Shortcake was big back in the 80’s but this just wasn’t the way to go about making a game about it. Actually it would have been better if they’d copied what Coleco was doing and make a basic Pitfall! Style platforming game but with Strawberry Shortcake characters, not a matching game. If you want to buy this game (for some reason) it’ll cost you around 12 dollars for a loose cart and anywhere from 20-80 dollars for a boxed copy, I got ‘lucky’ and got mine boxed off Etsy for 15 dollars. If you have any self respect then don’t buy this game, it’s just stupid and rightfully goes to the Collector’s Zone.