Australian Council on Children and the Media

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures - Budge

app image

Short takes

A ‘sandbox’ style game where Barbie and one of her friends get to explore activities like cooking, watching videos, performing dance routines and swimming in a pool. Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 12 (in-app purchasing,addictive elements)

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Contains some elements of gambling

This review of Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures was completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 September 2020.

About the app

This section contains details about the app provided by an ACCM Reviewer.

Name of app: Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures
Developed by: Budge
Platform reviewed: Apple App Store
Cost: Free
Developer’s suggested age: 4+
ACCM suggested age: Content is suitable for those over the age of 8 but due to extensive in-app advertising and addictive elements, parental guidance is recommended to age 12.
Gambling content advice: Contains some elements of gambling. This game may contain devices which mimic those found in a casino; but the player is not risking something of value to play. Refer to the gambling section of this review for further details

ACCM review

This review of Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures contains the following information:

The level to which the game was reviewed

Reviewer played this game for several hours and explored all areas. Reviewer also observed her eight-year-old daughter playing this game for one hour.

App description

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures lets you explore four areas: a large mansion; a performing venue with a stage; a swimming pool beside the beach; and a beauty salon. In each venue there are a series of simple and basic activities that you can do. For example, at the performance venue you can change how the stage looks, choose Barbie or one of her friends to perform a dance routine, choreograph a routine from a series of dance moves, and then watch the show. At the mansion you can go into different rooms and move things around, like cooking with ingredients in the kitchen, or trying on different outfits in the bedroom. When you follow basic instructions (for example, putting two ingredients in a frying pan to make something or selecting a matching outfit, etc) you win reward points. After you have gained a certain amount of reward points, you can claim a free gift. A gift box appears in the middle of the screen with fast paced arcade style music and you have to press on the box until it pops open to reveal your prize. Prizes are things like decorations to hang on the wall, food ingredients, kitchen items or paint colours etc. In the bottom right hand corner of the game there is a little phone icon which has notification badges popping up. When you press on it, you can read your ‘Barbie feed’ which tells you how many likes and followers you have. You can also read news or take photos of the game (a frame appears to move around). In the top left-hand corner, there is a button that takes you to a list of the developer’s other apps. Along the bottom there is a row of people you can choose to enter the game, however only one of these is free (Barbie’s friend “Nikki”) and the rest require a VIP subscription. The characters have little thought bubbles that pop up asking you to find objects they are thinking of – which gains you rewards if you find them. Every five minutes or so a pop-up ad plays that requires you to watch about 5 seconds of it before manually closing to return to the game. There is a parent/settings area which is accessible via putting in numbers – which means that any child of reading age will be able to do this easily.

Reviewers comments

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures has enough free content to allow a good few hours of free playing before children will start to get genuinely frustrated and a little worn down by the constant pushing of V.I.P club content that is available only by paying a monthly subscription. The temptation to sign up is very real, with all the V.I.P content on display constantly and looking so much better than the free content! Children will also have to put up with a lot of ads, which pop up and disrupt the game every five minutes or so and are pretty annoying. The ads are only for other games by the same developer (Budge) and did not, when I was reviewing, go beyond the age scope of this app. Children of reading age will very easily be able to access the parent section of this app where they will have the option of signing up for a free trial of the subscription V.I.P service – so do make sure that your device is password protected from accessing your payment information! One thing I noticed is that the reward gift boxes are really very addictive – they are like winning little prizes to add to your collection and the combination of flashing lights and fast arcade music as you press the box to open it and reveal your surprise, makes it a little like a gambling thrill. Even I noticed my heart racing a little each time I got to open a new box, and I observed a similar excitement when my daughter was playing. This is an effective tactic to keep you glued into the game as long as possible. Another element that made me a little uncomfortable was the phone icon in the corner where you could read notifications of ‘followers’ or who ‘liked’ your activities. This feels a lot like priming your children to want to get involved with social media well before social media should be on their radars.

In App purchasing

There is In-App purchasing in this game, examples include:

  • A lot of the content is only accessible if you sign up for a monthly subscription. After a free 7-day trial, you will be charged $7.99 per month.

Online information

There is no online information required to play this game.

Gambling

There are some gambling elements in this game, for example:

  • Blind gift boxes with a surprise gift. Combined with arcade style build up music and flashing sparkles.

Advertising and product placement

There is advertising in this game, including:

  • Pop-up ads that will play for 5 seconds before you can manually close them. All ads observed for this review were for other children’s apps by the same developer.
  • The majority of the content shown in this game is not freely available and must be ‘unlocked’ by paying a subscription. The whole game is basically a giant advertisement!
  • In lots of the spaces in the game there are screens where you can watch videos of all the fun thigs you can do if you are in the V.I.P club.

Gender stereo types and sexual references

There is some gender stereotyping in this App. For example:

  • As you might expect from a Barbie themed app, this is targeted towards girls and the activities are stereotypically gendered - cooking, cleaning, beauty salon, fashion, etc. This reinforces traditional stereotypes about what girls should enjoy or find interesting.

Coarse language

None noted.

Game playing behaviour which may be of concern to some parents

There are addictive elements to this game and very little free content. Please read reviewers comments for more detail.

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About our colour guide

Content is age appropriate for children this age

Some content may not be appropriate for children this age. Parental guidance recommended

Content is not age appropriate for children this age

Gambling content advice

Simulated casino style gambling. Not suitable for minors

Contains some elements of gambling. Some content is not recommended for minors. Parental guidance recommended

No gambling content found in the levels played

About games and gambling

Most games contain elements of risk, chance and knowledge, that is why they are fun to play. There is growing concern about the impacts of simulated gambling games on the health and wellbeing of children. That's why we are identifying games that contain gambling elements on our site.

The State Government of South Australia's web site http://nogame.com.au/ contains information about these concerns.