Availability: Free, Online/browser
Format: Dating Sim
Genre: Musical Fiction
My Scores: (Writing: 3.5 Art: 4.5 Gameplay: 3) out of 5
In Idol Days Sim Date, you are Lexie, a teenage girl who moved to the city with dreams of playing the guitar in a band. Through sheer luck, you happen to run right into a member of a local band whose guitarist just left, and they have a big concert coming up in 30 days.
The story is pretty unashamed wish-fulfilment; after all, who among us hasn't dreamed of playing in a band? And Lexie pretty much walks right into a sweet gig without even having to audition. It's one of those setups where you can hear the suspension of disbelief snapping, but don't care because "Rock Band! YAY!" Also, once again, I adore the sense of cohesion and unity that Pacthesis puts in her games by giving each character a piece of a larger story. If any would-be dating sim authors are out there taking notes, circle that part and underline it three times; it really improves the feel of the game.
That being said, there were some bits of the writing that I didn't personally care for. For one thing, the secret character seems a little bit *too* wish-fulfilly. I return a celebrity's wallet, and all of a sudden he's constantly gushing about how awesome I am? Maybe others would find that to be wonderful escapism, but I just found it to be strange and a little nauseating.
Also, you might notice that I rated this game E 10+ (Edit: Changed to PG because of html issues). The author herself declares it to be an all-ages game, but I gave it the more conservative ranking because of one character's interrupted attempt at suicide (described in text, but not shown). Apparently, it's very easy for an author to think of suicide (attempted or successful) as a shorthand way of saying "This character is very sad and/or had his feelings very hurt." While I'm reluctant to call it poor taste, it is an immature view; unrealistic without the counterbalance of wish-fulfillment (rare fetishes aside, unless I'm really missing something here). Suicide tends to be the result of very deep problems, either mental illness or a life so bleak and pain-filled that normal coping mechanisms no longer work. Figure, the human aversion to killing is very strong, and the aversion to dying even more so. This is why true suicidal thinking is considered a medical emergency. The game, however, doesn't treat it as anything more significant than wearing black and reciting bad poetry, which bugs me, and Pacthesis certainly isn't the only one to do so, which bothers me. Perhaps we should have a "Suicide Awareness Week" in schools?
The art is very decent, with some nice effects. Once again, it's anime style, so haters beware. The concert at the end has...um...an attempt at animation, which I feel was more to the game's detriment than its betterment. The musicians just kind of stand there, looking blankly off into the distance, while their hands move a little. Also, having dealt with silent characters all this time, it felt very weird for one character to suddenly sing in a voice that sounded nothing like I'd imagined him having. Fortunately, this music video is skippable, but it still makes me wince a little thinking about it.
The game-play is about on par with the other dating sims on this blog. The time management is a bit tighter than in Festival Days, there's no cheating via food items (that I could figure out, anyway). There are a few bugs, though, such as missing dialog in the dating scenes for a few of the characters. Also, the second workplace does not function, which means the stats are entirely unnecessary. (Fortunately, it is entirely possible to get by with only the first workplace, which makes this bug fairly unintrusive.) Guitar skill makes a slight difference, as your band-mates' praise after the concert will change depending on whether this stat is high or not, but it otherwise doesn't do much. The music video is the same, the romantic ending is the same, and even if your skill is 0, it's impossible to fail the concert.
In short, this is a cute game. It's not realistic at all, but that's okay. It has its bugs, but it's still playable. There are a couple things that annoyed me, such as the suicide plotline and that music video, both of which I feel the game would be better without. But again, all of this is my own opinion, and you may well tell me to stuff it and stop talking out of my hat. You can state your own opinion in the comments.