Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kaleidoscope Dating Sim 2

Author: Bomee, Mayuiki and Kyo
Availability: Free, Online/Browser
Format: Dating Sim
Genre: Supernatural
Rating: PG
My Scores: (Writing: 2.5, Art: 5, Gameplay: 2.5) out of 5

Found at http://nummyz.com/ OR http://www.newgrounds.com

Summary:

In Kaleidoscope Dating Sim 2, a gender-flipped sequel to Kaleidoscope Dating Sim, you are Soffie.  Once fond of singing, you became mute at the age of five and thus started retreating into a dream-world in your head.  One day, a fortune-teller gave you a magic potion.  You drank it, and now you've found yourself in the dream world!  You have 30 days to find a soul-mate here. If you succeed, you'll return to reality with your voice back.  If you fail, you'll become a dream soul and be trapped here forever.

Review:

Writing:

I wasn't too sure what score to give this at first.  On the one hand, I certainly can't accuse the writing of being too sparse on details.  Also, the characters are sufficiently different from each other in terms of personalities and "voice", which is important in a dating sim.  You'd be able to tell Gabe from Cero even if you couldn't see who was talking.  (Fun fact: Cero, winnable here, is also the protagonist of the prequel to this game).

The plot itself is a bit baroque, but whether this is a good thing or a bad thing may simply be a matter of taste.  There are a lot of different elements cobbled together, both in the intro and, to a lesser extent, in the love-interests' story-lines.  To someone like me, it can seem a bit overly much.  Unlike Winter Dance Sim Date, though, these odd bits aren't merely blurted and forgotten; they get brought up again in dialogue, and overall, it's hard to point out anything as completely irrelevant.  If anything, I'd say this game tries to cram a novel's worth of plot and characterization into something the size of a short story, and the result is that bits are sticking out every which way.  Of course, this style may have as many fans as it does detractors, and I've graded according to my own personal taste.

Art:

The art in this game is amazing!  There's something very life-like about the characters.  The expressions are subtle and nuanced, and there's a bit of animation that breathes further life into them with blinking and facial twitches.  Also, the backgrounds are nice, and the music is gentle and ambient.

Gameplay:

Mini-games again.  Urgh.  At first, I though "Oh, good!  All the mini-games have been neatly swept into a corner so I don't have to bother with them."  Well, that is not true.  Unlike many dating sims with currency involved, there is no job mechanism in Kaleidoscope 2.  The closest you can get is picking mushrooms in the forest to sell, but you are only allowed to do so once per day.  This means that you will have to play the mini-games.

And you will have to play the mini-games, because this game puts a really high emphasis on buying presents. In order to get the best ending for a character, you have to buy ALL of the types of presents that they like.  Each character has, I think, five gifts that you'll need to purchase for them, and the shop has about eighteen items to choose from.  While a couple of items can be intuited (I was able to figure out who would have a need for spray-paint, and it's a fair assumption that the articles of women's clothing are for one character in particular), the rest are found by trial and error (or by looking up a useful walkthrough on DeviantArt).  As with Re: Allistair, it's a bit frustrating in that you need to buy certain items but are not given enough clues on what to buy.  It'd be nice if there were hints dropped in dialogue or something.

Also, I am not a fan of the soul doors.  In most dating sims that I've seen, you're given a choice of locations to visit, and generally, there's one person who is always at that location.  Usually, these locations are "dressed up" somehow: it's the person's home, or their workplace, or a place they visit often.  It's woven into the story.  In Kaleidoscope 2, however, the notion of "Go Here to Visit X" is completely reduced to just that.  "Okay," the game says, "Do you want the person behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3?"  For all the details that went into the intro, this whole bit with the doors just seems too bald.

So why did I not give the gameplay a 1?  Because for all its mini-gaming faults, this is actually a very well-balanced dating sim.  The 30 day time-limit is neither overly long nor overly short for all the things you have to do. This also seems to be the first dating sim I've played where the dialog, gifts and dating all matter.  You do need the gifts in order to get the best ending, but in order to reach any kind of ending with the characters at all, you have to build up the relationship enough to be able to choose them.  You can't just spam one interaction until the game ends.  Also, if you're fond of the mini-games, it's fairly easy to win enough money to try the spaghetti-at-the-wall method of gift-buying; so that balances out, too.  It's just a shame, then, that I really do not like having to play stupid mini-games.

TLDR:

This game is interesting.  It's very well-balanced, but could probably benefit from a job activity that isn't limited to one turn per day.  The story, in my opinion, tries to do too much at once, but some may actually find this a plus.  The art is definitely the best component of the whole game, and I give it a standing ovation.

So what do you think?  Is this game a sweet dream or a nightmare?  Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments.

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