Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two Reviews: Mean Girls High School Showdown and 3 Stars of Destiny

I'm basically posting these so I can have something to put in the Writing Tab I just put up there. Anyhow, these were both done for Helium in the marketplace but never purchased, so nobody else would ever read them. Here now, after a year of internet-limbo, are these two very brief reviews.

Downloadable game review: Mean Girls High School Showdown
While Mean Girls: High School Showdown is based loosely on the 2004 Lindsey Lohan Comedy, it is more directly based on the popular 2007 game Puzzle Quest. The games play fundamentaly identically, the combination of RPG statistics with a BeJeweled-style "Battle" system surviving intact, and is made somewhat novel by the re-framing of the concept for the high school crowd. The games are not identical, and in truth, in spite of how overdone the High School gimmick is presented, I actually appreciated some of the more significant changes.
After creating your character (who, as per the movie, has just transferred in from studying in Africa) you are led through the tutorial missions which explain the story of the game, which, mirroring the movie, has you joining and eventually combatting the exclusive school clique, "The Plastics." Players take on a series of missions as they move toward eventualy completing the game, lining tiles up in groups of three or more to clear them and bring new tiles in from the top. Clearing different tiles will build points in four different categories to allow you to use skills that can affect the game, and other tiles will help you do "damage" to your opponent in order to win the match.
Where Mean Girls differs from Puzzle Quest is in having two different "Health" bars to deal damage to, one for Stamina, which slowly drains, and the other for Loyalty, which slowly fills, depending on whether you match Whip or Heart tiles, respectively. Depending on which of these two ways you use to defeat the opponent affects the story of the game and how later sections are played, though not drastically. Adding this element, as well as removing the Tile-based Experience and Gold collection aspects of Puzzle quest, makes the game that much more interesting, as well as accessable.
Overall, I ended up enjoying the game in spite of myself. Legacy Interactive has done well targeting a new, potentially untapped audience for this type of game, and adding the new twist opens up replayability that its predecessor might have lacked. However, while it will satisfy its intended audience, certainly, it is hard to recommend this game over the original to anyone else, considering how little else it comparitively offers for the same price. Still, it's not a bad game for the price.
Score: 3/5
Downloadable game review: 3 Stars of Destiny
"3 Stars of Destiny" strikes me at first as the sort of RPG you would create if you set out to parody the over-used conventions of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and too many others. Stop me if you've heard this before: Young male hero on just this side of adulthood on an everyday errand for his family meets a mysterious female who he then pursues, enduring the mischeif she initially causes before banding with him, as well as his loyal pet and, for team balance, a healing magic user in order to save all of everything that ever there was from a vaguely defined super-powered evil, a quest that will take our heroes across the globe to attain the magical whatevers they require to face, then vanquish, said evil. Unlike a parody, however, the game makes the tragic mistake of ultimately failing to realize how very similar it is to so much else, and in failing to be self-aware, it also fails to hold the slightest bit of interest.
Combat is basically early Dragon Quest, Attack, Skill, Item, and Run Away being the only options. On the one hand it's uncomplicated, and on the other there's really no point on playing on any difficulty besides Easy, as the harder difficulty levels are only challenging in the sense of how many more healing items you need to stockpile before going out anywhere and how many save points there are. The remainder of the game is spend running around an overhead view of your standard heavily-forested fantasy world, finding apples and nuts in the forest, searching treasure chests in people's homes without them mentioning, fighting creatures that are invisible until you stumble on them, etc. Saying things like this are cliche because they work is all well and good, but it doesn't make it any easier a task to justify paying for more of the same.
Given that the game was created entirely in RPG Maker XP, I can't help but feel there are limits to how much I can criticise the game versus the tool they made it with, and true enough what the Indinera Falls team has contributed is fairly well done; artwork crisp, music well-composed, scripting and storyline thorough (if a little too familiar at times), however, given how easy it is to find other, better games made with the same engine, and free ones at that, it's difficult to recommend purchasing this game.
Score: 2/5

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