By LOU KESTEN
The conventional wisdom on gender differences and play is that girls like to create things, boys like to destroy them. A girl can enjoy building a house out of Legos, while half the fun for a boy is demolishing the thing.
Most video games are about destruction; guys love “Halo 3” because it’s fun to blow stuff up. But the Entertainment Software Association says 38 percent of video-game players are female, and most of the industry doesn’t know — or care — what they want.
“The Sims” is often cited as a game girls like, because it involves nurturing your character rather than giving her a machine gun. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of women picking up the mayhem-free “Guitar Hero.” And a few companies are hoping to expand the audience for video games by getting to young girls early.
U“Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey” (Disney, for the Wii, $39.99; PlayStation 2, $29.99): For this foray into girl games, Disney has trotted out its biggest female stars: Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine (“Aladdin”) and Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”). But the real “princess” is the player, thanks to an easy-to-use character generator that lets anyone turn herself into a Disneyesque heroine.
Something has gone wrong in each of the familiar stars’ worlds: Ariel’s people can’t sing any more, for example, while color has been drained from Snow White’s kingdom. The heroine can restore the missing elements by waving her magic wand — which has the side benefit of turning monsters into butterflies. The result is a low-key, nonviolent adventure with the look of classic Disney animation.
The ideal version is the one for the Wii, which lets you twirl the controller as if it was a magic wand. Both versions offer cooperative play, so a younger girl can get help from a parent (or vice versa). Three stars out of four.
U“Hannah Montana Music Jam” (Disney, for the DS, $29.99): You could dedicate a landfill to all the awful games that have been developed from Disney Channel series, from “Lizzie McGuire” to “That’s So Raven” to “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” “Hannah Montana Music Jam” breaks that streak with a decent music-making tool.
“Music Jam” does a nifty job of simulating a guitar on the DS: You select a chord with the directional pad and strum the strings with the stylus. You can create lead, rhythm and bass guitar tracks, add a drumbeat, then edit them all together and save the result. There are also some “Guitar Hero”-ish minigames, but you have to play through a drab adventure to find them.
The story has pop star Hannah polishing her skills in order to fend off a new rival, Savannah Star. Meanwhile, Hannah’s normal-gal alter ego, Miley, is running around doing favors for her friends. The tedious quests usually involve simply taking an object from one character to another — which is no fun at all when you just want to play guitar. Two stars.