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Subject: In (faint) praise of Dora Candy Land rss

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Jim Patterson
United States
Iowa City
Iowa
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For my younger daughter, Dora the Explorer has been a boon companion for several years. Though her love for Dora has understandably faded a bit as she's approached her sixth birthday, she still likes to watch Dora on TV, read the occasional Dora book, and, yes, play Candy Land: Dora the Explorer Edition. As the adult gamer in the family and a good friend of hers, I'm a frequent partner. Her older sister, almost eight, will play sometimes; their mom can be lured in once in a while. But I believe I'm her favorite--and certainly her most available--opponent.

You'd get the idea from reading things here about Candy Land that it was just about the worst thing since Tic-Tac-Toe. It's dull, it's too long, it's totally random, no skill or decisionmaking is required, and, to boot, it promotes childhood obesity with its candy theme. I hardly think that Candy Land, Dora or otherwise, is a great game, but I will say that if you have to play Candy Land, and you have or know young children who like Dora, the Dora version of Candy Land is actually in a few ways an improvement upon the standard edition my kids used to have.

The outline of the Dora version is essentially the same as that of its older cousin. Players pick a pawn, put it at the starting point on the board, and take turns moving the pawn via card draw. The cards have either colors (one or two blocks) or pictures matching spaces on the board. If a player draws a one-color-block card, she moves her pawn ahead to the next matching color space on the path. If she draws a two-color-block card, she moves her pawn to the second matching color space. If she draws a picture card, she moves her pawn to the corresponding spot on the board, whether it means moving forward or backward. Players can save some time if they manage to land on one of the two Rocket Star shortcut spaces. There are three Swiper spaces that require the player landing on one to lose her turn. The game ends when one of the players reaches the multicolored space near the fiesta that marks the goal.

I named many of the common complaints about Candy Land, and, by and large, they're valid. It is random--you can be almost at the end and then get sent way back to near the beginning. You have no real control over what's going on; there are no decisions at all. It can be a bit long because of that. I do think, though, there are some virtues, if fleeting ones, for both Candy Land generally and for the Dora Edition in particular.

General
No reading: Candy Land, in whatever form, requires no reading, meaning that even the youngest kids can play. Can't say that about Puerto Rico. It also means that the game's language independent. (The Dora version and, I presume others, include rules in Spanish as well as English, but the game itself can be taught orally.)
Basic skills: Yes, there are probably better games out there to teach basic skills, game-related and otherwise, but for particularly young children, learning to identify, match, and name colors; take turns; and move the proper number of spaces does take some work, and Candy Land can be a little useful toward mastering those skills.

Dora Edition

Pawns: Instead of standup counters, the Dora Edition includes four nicely sculpted and painted Dora-themed pawns: Dora, Boots, Backpack/Map, and Diego. If nothing else, this should help initiate the next generation of AT fans.
Cards: The cards are both larger and higher quality than those found in the standard Candy Land game. They also feature some Dora-themed artwork on the picture cards.
Rules: In place of the get-stuck-in-a-bad-spot-nearly-indefinitely rule, Dora Edition uses a lose-one-turn rule for the three Swiper spaces. This tightens up gameplay quite a bit and helps reduce the frustration of the wee ones who can't draw the right card to leave Molasses Swamp or whatever.
Theme: Sure, the Dora theme is no deeper than a hundred others that could be pasted on Candy Land, but it's executed pretty well here: Swiper spaces, Rocket Star shortcuts, a fiesta-based goal, and the like. There are also bits of bilingualism on the board.
Dora herself: Though I'm not a real fan of her show, Dora is, I think, a pretty decent character for kids. She's upbeat, solves problems, and is fluent in two languages.

Dora Edition Candy Land hasn't reinvented the game. It's still subject to most of the same criticisms that can be leveled against its parent game. But it has added some quality to its presentation and sped up the game just a bit. It's worth at least a passing look for parents and friends of Dora fans.

My younger daughter chimes in: "I like it a lot." She likes the characters, apparently. Guess we'll be playing again.
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Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
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My 3.5 year old daughter has this version. She likes it a lot too. And you know what? I like it too--it's a great way to interact in a gaming form. This is not for adults, it's for the slightly younger set, and it fills that role nicely. There will be better, more involved games that we'll play when she gets older, but right here, right now, this is great!
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