Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dating Sim Academy

Author: Bomee
Availability: Free, Online/Browser
Format: Dating Sim
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Teen
My Score: 1 out of 5
In Dating Sim Academy, You play Air, a flat-chested girl from Earth who somehow finds herself in the magical “Purra Land”. Purra Land is populated by Purras, spirits with human and animal features (Think Catgirls). In 50 days, you will get a chance to make a wish under the starry moon – provided you have found True Love, of course.
I didn’t really care for the art at all. The best parts of it were okay, and the worst bits were practically doodles. While it could have been worse, I just wasn’t very impressed with it. The main redeeming qualities of the art were the special effects: Blinking and movement in the characters, sparkles, and other little details. However, they’re like ketchup on a dry meatloaf: it helps, but only to a point. Interestingly, at least one of the reviews on Newgrounds praised the artwork, so maybe I’m just spoiled. Feel free to discuss your opinion in the comments.
As for the writing; the plot is fairly obviously an “Excuse Plot”. I can respect that; sometimes you just want to dive into a fantasy and don’t need to spend an hour learning why the scenario is possible and how it all came to be and so on. It’s MAGIC! Bam! Now on with the show. Players who are looking for something more deep and involved, though, will be left out in the cold.
While I can forgive the lack of a complex plot, the fact that the characters aren’t very complex bothers me. In a dating sim, the characters are pretty much the main reason you’re here; you expect them to either look good or be interesting. Since the art isn’t very mind-blowing, it falls to the writing to give the characters interesting personalities that make you care about them. However, the writing here falls flat too.
The worst crime committed, though, is the ambiguity. Very frequently, the presented dialog options will seem equally valid, and in some cases will even be synonymous with each other! However, only one will be correct, and it’s effectively a stab in the dark to figure out which. Once you’ve made your selection, the character will give a stock phrase that translates to either “right” or “wrong”, and you have to spend another 10 hp on conversation to get anything meaningful, even if it’s supposed to be a reaction to what you just said. Also irritating, though for a different reason, is the tendency of a conversation segment to have Only One Possible Response; the equivalent of just clicking “Next.” I feel these moments rob the player of the experience, which is already at a premium.
Finally, there’s the game play. The game will tell you that 50 days is a short time; I disagree. In 50 days, I was pretty much able to max out 3 out of the 4 characters, and that was taking into account the HP wasted on wrong answers and playing the shell mini-game. This game has fewer options than other dating games, since the Give Gift option only tells you what to bring on your date (which is the last thing you’ll be doing in the game). So basically, that just leaves you with Talk. The most interesting part of the gameplay is the shell mini-game, and coming from me, this should tell you something. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait all 50 days; once you set things up for a date with a character, you can end the game early.
My final complaint is the teasing. In the mini-game, there is a promise that gaining a certain amount of points will earn you a secret, with the suggestion being that it’s something naughty. The suggestion is a lie. Now don’t get me wrong; I am perfectly fine with games and authors that refuse to cross over into Adult territory. I approve of this. But teasing can make the player frustrated and annoyed in the best circumstances; making the player work for a false promise is simply mean.
I realize I’ve been awfully harsh with this game. Others seem to have enjoyed it, and I grant that it’s basically a light bit of fluff. However, I personally found it to be boring, as well as the worst girl-oriented dating sim I’ve played to date (pun not intended). Still, try it yourself and see what you think, and if you find you like it, feel free to tell me to stuff it.

1 comment:

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