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Bratz: Rock Angelz, a CD-ROM in English by THQ for Atari, distributed by Atari-Israel with a 12-page Hebrew-language user's manual, requires Windows 98 or better and a 733 Mhz Pentium PC or higher, for ages eight to 14,
Rating: ** 1/2
Boy gamers are keen on shooting (and exploding, slashing and racing), while girl gamers are crazy about shopping (and makeup, hairstyles and fashion). This axiom is probably not true for many teenagers who play computer games, but it's the firm belief of software companies around the world. More than 95 percent of non-educational computer games are designated for males, while the handful developed specifically for females follow this pathetic stereotype.
Bratz, which began in the toy industry as an effort to replace Barbie dolls as the must-have gift for pre-teen girls, has expanded into movies, software and many other financially rewarding spinoffs.
The developer, MGA Entertainment, has earned over $1 billion in sales since the dolls' introduction five years ago, and its market research indicates that mothers of pre-teens are the prime customers. The quartet of multiracial female teen characters have nevertheless raised the ire of feminist groups (such as Concerned Women for America), who claim the characters - Jade, Cloe, Sasha and Yasmin - are modeled on "hooker chic" and degrading to women.
And here they are - animated, long legged, wide hipped, with pumped up lips, long hair, very short skirts, tight hot pants, cropped tops with their bellybuttons showing, stiletto-heeled boots and the backside-shifting waddle of women of the night! The only thing missing is a Barbie bosom. These, dear parents, are the MTV-era role models for your prepubescent daughters. Caveat emptor!
Not only are the Bratz's looks unwholesome, but their airheaded personalities make them keen only on going to the mall and outfitting themselves with new clothes. All of the characters carry cell phones, which serve as their communications center and the focus of their universe. All this may be a true picture of many American teenage girls and (sigh) of many of their Israeli peers, but many are more serious than that.
The story begins with Jade, a dark-haired girl who wants to be a fashion journalist, starts at the bottom as an intern for the fictional Your Thing Magazine. She meets the editor, Burdine Maxwell, who is more enamored with the color pink than Pnina Rosenblum, shouts at everybody and orders staffers and interns around as if they were slaves. You help Jade find five photos strewn in various parts of the building for inserting into Burdine's album and carry out the (more pleasant) photo editor's request for a diet soda from the employee lounge (not an easy task, as she doesn't supply money for the vending machine; you must first search high and low for the coins). Once this is done, you wade through tons of pink outfits - from hot pants to elevator shoes - in Burdine's mechanically operated closet, click quickly on the items shown in pictures and dispatch them to suitcases for her upcoming London trip.
Despite all her efforts, Jade is fired because she brought the editor the wrong lunch. Jade and the other Bratz decide to open their own competing fashion magazine, and the player must help renovate a rat-ridden old office, choose "just the right color blue" for the decor and develop their "talents" as rock stars (that is, "starz" in Bratz lingo).
While on this important mission, you can design T-shirts, create posters to promote the magazine, "interview" people about shopping, take photos of animals using the cell phone, participate in skating races and indulge in a dozen other mini-games, adventures and design assignments. Change the Bratz's clothing, hairstyle and makeup as often as you want and shop till you drop.
The sound is ear shattering (except for some lovely classical music in Burdine's office before Jade gets fired), and the graphics are fuzzy and poorly detailed. Aside from the problematic content, the program will be beyond the ken of many younger Israeli girls because the level of the English dialogue is beyond that of most third graders - but 14-year-old Israeli girls who would understand the language would quickly get bored by the repetitive phrases and tasks.