I did all I can to try and stop my now-three-year-old daughter from embracing the awful pink inevitability of Disney princesses. We showered her with non-gendered toys, I tried to share my love of transforming robots and Lego spaceships, we showed enthusiasm for animals and dinosaurs, but still it happened. We no longer fight it. Let the phase pass by itself. This means that my weekends are often characterised by visits to Brighton's many charity shops, which invariably yield some squidgy-covered Sleeping Beauty book, a Cinderella doll with hair cropped by rough, stubby fingers into a brutal crewcut or, most recently, a 2001 CD-ROM based upon Beauty & the Beast. My dire warnings that it was almost certainly too old to run on my computer fell on deaf and tantruming ears, and so my fate was sealed.
Disney's Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre is one of those CD-ROMs one might find on the single sad and dusty games rack in a supermarket or newsagent, managed by Nora from the cheese counter who used to play Chuckie Egg so she knows what she's talking about. In fact, I would put money on Disney's Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre still being sold in some supermarkets or newsagents, ancient, greasy copies that have been there since the turn of the millenium.
It is, naturally, extremely tempting to dismiss it out of hand as cheap and exploitative. Software bound only for the pound shop. Actually, it's, well, not awful. In terms of target market (ages 4+), it knows what it's doing and I rather think some money has been spent on it.
The animations and characters, though few and looped, are done well, looking impressively Disney-esque even at 800x600. There are voices, which I think are the original actors - although I believe we are sadly denied a Lansbury appearance as Mrs Potts, though it's decent impression.
The Activity Centre offers four mini-games/design tools, but there was but one question on young Connie's mind: could she choose which dress Belle wore to the ball? Yes. Yes she could. 10/10, *****, GOTY. And then Belle dances in said dress, in an arrangement chosen by the child/miserable parent or guardian by selecting from a handful of different step types.
Dresses and dancing, looks like the cartoon, nail on the head. We watched the dance again and again, cycling between each colour of dress. Again! Again! Again! I gazed longingly at the Civilization VI icon on my desktop.
You can make party invitations too, with pretend stickers or a stained glass window painting tool. There's a slow, micro version of Diner Dash in there. There's also something to do with rummaging through books to find a secret key, but the comparative absence of pink in this mode means Connie has thus far spurned it.
I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we get to it, however. I expect to be playing this thing every weekend for the next 18 months.
This article was originally written for the RPS Supporter Program.