Thursday, July 20, 2017

Date Almost Anything Sim

Author: Huegor
Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
Genre: Waste of Time
Rating: Teen

Found at Itch.io

My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 1
Art: 2
Gameplay: 1
Romance: 0

Review


I'm going to forgo my usual template and just come right out with one question: What is so offensively awful about wanting to play a dating sim, that someone out there feels compelled to release a Hate Letter about it?

This “game” is a waste of time. It even gloats that it is a waste of time, and it chides you for wasting your time playing games instead of achieving important things in life. Well, I have news for this author and anyone else with the same mentality: Playing a dating sim is not the same thing as wasting your entire life. Sometimes people come home from a long day at either work or school and want to veg out, either with a movie, book, or—yes, even a dating sim. It's natural; it's healthy. Do you know what happens to people who constantly work with no rest? They burn out. They're the people who die at age forty with a pile of wealth and no friends. They're the people who spend all their hard-earned cash on therapists because they can't be satisfied with all they've achieved in life. You should never be vilified for just wanting some entertainment.

Not only is it important to take a break, no matter what your routine or goals in life, but it's especially important to experience something positive, like a funny story or a smile from a loved one. Date Almost Anything Sim presented itself as something positive, both intentionally and possibly unintentionally. Intentionally, it presented itself as a dating sim, which usually allows players to experience a work of fiction with a happy ending (or at least a satisfying catharsis, in the case of tragedies). Personally, I expected a surreal comedy based on the idea of literally dating anything, from mermaids to muffins. Comedy causes laughter, which improves health and raises life expectancy. Furthermore, experiencing something creative can help improve your own mind, which is why literature, art, and music are vitally important to any school's curriculum. When I see something that is outside of my usual experiences, by however much, my mind expands and I become enriched as a person, able to consider more possibilities and adapt quicker to new ideas.

Fiction is valid. Fiction is important. It doesn't matter if that fiction is a horror novel, a cartoon about ponies, or a computer dating sim. Whenever an author shares their work with you, they are sharing their knowledge and experiences, however indirectly. When Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid, he shared not just a fantasy story, but the pain of unrequited love and a warning about throwing everything away on someone who may not even return your feelings. Uncle Tom's Cabin helped the Abolitionist movement by forcing many to see Black people as characters instead of props for the first time. Mad Max: Fury Road caused a backlash in the MRA because it supposedly lured male audience members in with cars and explosions only to subject them to feminist ideas. Are you seeing the pattern, here? Sharing a work of fiction is as much an exchange of ideas as debating with someone face to face, even if the idea is that there is no order to the universe (look up Dada, for example).

So, yes, I was hoping to spend a little time, out of my busy life, playing a dating sim. Is this a waste of my time? Only if the author, like here, deliberately makes it so. Even then, I won't call this a waste, since it directly led to me putting into words something that I've long believed and that I think others should know, especially anyone out there who needs to feel validated about their hobby. This means that Date Almost Anything Sim has failed on every front:
  1.  The writing is stupid, and one should never use emoticons in dialog for these games since, A) nobody is hearing the words semi-colon, letter u, semi-colon, and B) Facial expressions are what the art is for.
  2. The artwork is lazy, using photographed backgrounds and outright fading to black for some segments.
  3. The game is boring, giving me flashbacks to my first job, and the Options and About sections of the menu are poorly coded.
  4. The author wanted to waste my time and then make me feel bad about it. See the above essay. I rest my case.




Thursday, July 13, 2017

Magical Makeover

Author: S. Woodson
Availability: Free, Download/Online
Format: Twine
Genre: Humor/Fantasy
Rating: Teen

My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 4
Art: N/A
Gameplay: 2.5
Romance: N/A

Summary


In Magical Makeover, you have managed to get an invitation to Princess Philantha's Grand Equinox Ball! (Specifically, you've managed to get Dame Demetria's invitation to the ball. But never mind.) Once you're inside the palace, you plan to search for the legendary, wish-granting golden cassowary! Only, just having the invitation isn't enough: Princess Philantha only permits the prettiest people to be present at her party, which means it's time for a makeover! What could go wrong?

Review

The Writing


It occurs to me that this is the second game I've reviewed where the protagonist is a lesbian, and in both cases, the games were text-only and her love-life was irretrievably in the toilet. Huh. This has no bearing on the rating, mind you; I just find it kind of odd, and if it happens again, I'll have to check TV Tropes to see if “love-lorn lesbian text adventure” is a thing.

Getting back on topic: the writing for this is both good and hilarious. The game is partly a send-up of the classic dress-up/hygiene flash games on the internet. Our protagonist is not especially pretty, and she knows she's not pretty, and people are all too glad to tell her she's not pretty. But, when her rather suspicious beauty-products turn her into freaky and unusual shapes, somehow this gets considered beautiful. Of course, the beauty treatments are only a means to an end, both in-game and in a meta sense: after your arrival at the party, the story branches off into narratives that have little to do with either beauty or the eyes of beholders, and everything to do with looking for the golden cassowary. In other words, “Come for the satire, stay for the adventure.”

The Gameplay


I think I would have liked this game better if it had more choices in the second half. As it is, only the makeover segment itself feels remotely like a game, with the scenes at the party playing out like a very long epilogue. The choice of beauty-products is what determines which story you get to read at the end. Your choice of clothes has no effect on it, though it does give you some flavor text on the bus and at the party, which I enjoy seeing.

TL;DR:


Magical Makeover is an entertaining interactive story that flips off beauty-obsession without making that its only point. While the first half feels more like a game, the latter half puts more emphasis on “story” than “interactive”. Still, the writing itself is often fun enough to hold this piece's head above water.


That's just my opinion, though. Do you think that this game is simply glamorous, or is it the weirdest thing you've ever seen? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Blind Date

Author: Unknown
Availability: Free, Online/Browser-Based
Genre: ...Romance, I guess?
Rating: Everyone


My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 2
Art: 2
Gameplay: 1
Romance: Pft...HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Summary

The premise of Blind Date is very simple: choose a guy, choose a dress, then sit on the beach and stare at things for a while.  Ah, love!

Review

The Writing


It's a little hard to rate the writing in this, since there really isn't much aside from the instructions.  At least the spelling is correct.  Hmm, I suppose I could point out the comma splice...  No.  You know what?  I can do better than this!  Here we go:

New Summary

Our story follows a mute heroine afflicted with deep psychosis.  The domineering voice in her head commands her to “spin the wheel of love”, which she envisions as a slot machine.  In this hallucination, the “wheel” controls her destiny, and yet she controls the wheel.  But, subconsciously, she must feel it is a dangerous thing, for she also sees an angel with an arrow trained on it, ready to shoot the machine at a moment's notice.

After settling on one of the only three guys she knows, two words reverberate through her mind: “Select Dress”.  She imagines a closet floating in the void, containing three outfits.  Again, the hosts of heaven stand ready to fire upon it, grinning madly, waiting...but for what?

At last, having chosen the forms of herself and her imaginary date, the woman, still seated comfortably on her living room sofa, has a vision of a beach with a moon-lit sky.  In this fantasy, there is no symbol of divinity to watch over her, for she herself has become divinity, able to command the moon and tides and to summon the dawn at will!  Only by impressing her intended with such power can she convince her own mind that she is worthy of a simple gesture of affection: a kiss.

Review

The Writing

I was truly not expecting such a dark concept when I clicked on this, nor such an avant-garde method of story-telling.  There is no dialog except for the nameless woman's hallucinatory voice, which thus forces us into the perspective of this poor, isolated woman for whom the voice has become everything.  This piece is also bold enough to address the often tense relationship between religion and romantic desire, represented here by a smiling, innocent cherub who constantly keeps a weapon aimed at the symbols of this woman's progress towards finding a mate.  It's brilliant, though perhaps a bit depressing for my tastes.

The Art

The art style is flat and slightly cartoonish, belying the very dark subject matter while heightening the sense of unreality.  The woman's large head in the “real world” segments emphasizes the imaginary nature of her romance quest, and the five-second loops of cheery music in each level invite the player to join her in madness.

The Gameplay

The gameplay is deceptively simple though it gets difficult towards the end.  I lost many times before I realized I was supposed to click on one little star in the sky.  Even after supposedly “winning” the game, though, your efforts can still be ranked as a “bad date”, thus demonstrating how emotional imbalances can color our impressions of seemingly positive events.

TL;DR:

Blind Date is a daring look at mental I cannot finish this sentence.  Blind Date a short, cheesy, point-and-click flash game, as inoffensive as it is pointless.  Worse games exist, and you'd better believe that better games exist.  I'd say it's one for the “I have nothing else to do” pile.

If you want a game that's actually a dark look inside someone's mind, I recommend Reverie.

I also recommend checking out the website for NAMI, which is an organization meant to help real people with actual mental problems.

In the meantime:  Comments!  Opinions!  Suggestions of stuff I should be reviewing!  Y'all know how it works, people. :)