Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Cup of Tea

AKA The Love Dating Sim for Girls
Author: Kathleen Lieu
Availability: Free, Online/Browser
Format: Dating Sim
Genre: Summer Romance
Rating: Everyone
My Score: 2.5 out of 5

In My Cup of Tea, you play as 17 year old Sara Biea Affen. As the game itself states, "17 yr old Sara thinks she is silly and plain... Will Sara get a honey before the end of summer and the start of senior year? You have 30 days to help her!"

Let's start with the art: My Cup of Tea is supposedly drawn entirely with a mouse. Drawing with a mouse, a teacher once told me, is like drawing with a bar of soap. As such, the art in My Cup of Tea takes a hit. There's an unpolished, unprofessional look to it; however, it also possesses a certain charm and cuteness. Personally, I get a kick out of the chicken that appears when she sleeps. Also, bonus points for having the "sleeping Sarah" art change after certain amounts of days have gone by; it helps give the game a sense of motion, although admittedly, it's kind of odd to see Sarah thinking "Boys, Boys, Boys!" when in the process of working the lesbian option.

As for the writing: Apparently, the characters from the game are based on the author's own original stories. Given that many dating sims on the internet are simply built around seducing a popular Anime character (Naruto Dating Sim, I'm looking at you), it's refreshing to see such a high dose of originality. That said, there's a certain level of flatness to the characters; 3 out of the 4 suitors basically boil down to The Surfer, The Bisexual Guy, and The Lesbian Option. There are a few bits of trivia - a sister's name here, a favorite book there - but there's some substance lacking. I blame the sparseness of the dialogue, which brings us to...

The Game Play: My Cup of Tea has a simplicity to it, which is good for people new to the genre. Best of all - and I could kiss the author for this - NO MINIGAMES!!! Though, actually, that may not be *entirely* accurate; there are some points in the game where you can play dress-up. However, it's avoidable (you have to actively choose to do it), has no impact on game-play, and I actually find it an amusing diversion. So kudos for that.

While the game is simple, though, it also gets repetetive to the point of being frustrating. The dialogue is very sparse, and characters will repeat themselves several times, which makes it hard to peg exactly where you stand with this person. There's no real indicator for when the relationship is complete, so unless you know what numbers to watch for on the XP, you could quit too soon and miss that character's best ending.

Other frustrating bits are the gift system and the quizzes (called Impress so-and-so). Each suitor has a list of three gifts you can offer them, but they will only like two of them. This creates an unpleasant surprise when you finally earn enough for something expensive, only to have your gift rebuffed. As for the quizzes; there's a reason I prefer clickable multiple-choice options to having to type into a box. When you have to type and submit, too much can go wrong. I must have typed every possible permutation of the surfer's band name - with a The, without a The, spelled right, spelled wrong - and it never took. To this day, I still don't know what answer it wanted, or if it was just broken.

So, when all is said and done, I give My Cup of Tea a 2.5. Word on the net is that this is the author's first dating sim, and if that's true, it's a very good first attempt. However, I find it to be a mediocre game over all. It's a cute way to pass the time, but once you finish, you may or may not wish to replay; which is a shame, since replay value is what puts dating sims and other multi-ending games over the other genres. But even so, it's still worth checking out at least once. And who knows? You might just find that it's your cup of tea. ;)

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