OMG! High School
Developer: Legacy Interactive
Publisher: Paramount Pictures Interactive
Release Date: 04/07/09
When this game arrived here at DHGF, our esteemed editor-in-chief turned to me and went, “Hey Aileen, you’re a girl, this game’s aimed at girls – it’s a match made in heaven! Yay!” (OK, OK, fine, he didn’t actually say it like that.). While I’ve traditionally never gravitated towards games created for preteen/teenage girls even when I was a preteen/teenage girl, I’m always willing to give anything a fair shot, so I agreed to take it. So here we are.
Is this compilation actually a decent set of games, or just cash-in attempts rolled into an oversimplified aim at the female half of the gaming population?
Earlier this year, Bryan reviewed Mean Girls. That game is included in this pack as well. That game puts you in the role of a girl (You can name her, but she’s Cady in the movie.) who just moved from Africa. Having previously been homeschooled her whole life up to that point, she enters public high school without any previous experience to fall back on. The first two people she meets, Janis and Damien, have her act as a double agent for them and ingratiate herself with the Plastics, the popular group of the school, in order to unearth dirt to use against them and knock them off their pedestal.
Clueless centers around Cher Horowitz, a rich popular girl who’s a fashion connoisseur that likes to help people, though her philanthropic efforts aren’t always effective. After some barbs from her ex-stepbrother Josh about how her only direction in life was “to the mall”, she sets out to prove to him that she does have a social conscience and a direction in life. She starts off by matchmaking two hard grading teachers as a ploy to negotiate for a higher report card. But after seeing how happy they are together, she discovers she really likes making people happy, so she gives Tai, the unpopular new girl, a makeover and attempts to pair her up. Needless to say, things don’t go quite as she anticipates.
Pretty in Pink revolves around a love triangle between Andie, Duckie, and Blane. Andie is a poor girl with a penchant for fashion who lives with her unemployed father and works at TRAX, a New Age music store. Duckie is Andie’s friend who, unbeknownst to her, has feelings for her. Blane is one of the “richies” who starts to develop feelings for Andie as well after talking with her at TRAX. Much to Duckie’s chagrin, Andie and Blane go on a date, where Andie gets treated poorly by his friends. Then Blane’s friends proceeds to exert some good old peer pressure. Things get messy from there.
The stories in each of the games are told through short cutscenes between stages, so you won’t be sitting there reading for half an hour before getting to the next segment of gameplay. You can also skip them altogether if you prefer to cut to the chase or are replaying a stage and don’t want to sit through the scene again. All three remain fairly faithful to their sources’ respective storylines, though don’t expect it to be quite as fleshed out as the movies (sometimes there’ll only be two lines of dialogue before the next task is plopped in front of you).
Story Rating: Decent
That being said, man, was no one satisfied until everything was covered in various shades of pink? Did they get a cute little dog that urinates pink to mark its territory all over the games until every last inch of every game turned roseate?
Alright, alright, I’ll get serious.
Yes, there is really a lot of pink in all three games. While it sort of makes sense considering the nature of the movies they’re based on, it also seems to follow the common assumption that anyone female will automatically fall all over anything slathered in the color. Mean Girls has a rather bright overall color scheme. The characters are all drawn in a somewhat cartoonish style and all have little motions when they’re talking or even just standing there, which was a nice little touch. The world map consists of a miniature you with an angel halo or devil horns (depending on your current alignment) and an overhead view of the school, with dots to represent different stops. The showdown screen is pretty clear-cut and does its job.
Pretty in Pink mostly consists of pre-rendered pictures of various environments cluttered with an amalgamation of items. They look alright and are functional, but they’re not dazzling. The characters are drawn decent, but look like they’re paper dolls that have sticks attached to the bottom that someone’s moving around and look more like something one might see in a flash game. Most of the time only their eyes move while their facial expression doesn’t change, which looks strange.
In Clueless, the character are somewhat realistic and look like the actors they’re meant to portray, though they tend to be rather static and look kind of stiff. The clothes are decently detailed and varied in theme and design. After a while, it starts to get a little boring to look at, especially when the same clothes start to crop up over and over.
Overall, the graphics work for the kinds of games these are and won’t tax your video card, but don’t expect to be blown away.
Graphics Rating: Mediocre
The music for each game features tracks from the source movie’s soundtrack. They’re generally on the poppy side and upbeat, though Pretty in Pink’s music is a bit more subdued than the rest. Whether this is good or bad depends on how much you like (or dislike, as the case may be) that kind of music. I never really found it grating to listen to, though I did start to tune it out after a while.
There’s also snippets of voice acting in Mean Girls and Clueless, and they both sound like they either got snippets from the actual movies or got actors to record them. It fits in with the setting and isn’t grating to hear. They can get a bit repetitive after a while when the same thing is said over and over, though. Especially Cher’s random fashion tips – yes, Cher, I heard you the first time you said that this particular clothing combination would make a guy more likely to pay for dinner.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay
All three games use profiles as saves, meaning anything you do is saved automatically. The controls for all three games are just straightforward pointing and clicking, so there’s little to no learning curve involved.
Mean Girls is essentially Puzzle Quest set in a high school. You proceed through the game by running around fulfilling quests. You can even click, “Go to quest” in the quest section and you’ll automatically walk to where you need to be – yay for minimal traveling time. Of course, you won’t be allowed to go about doing them unfettered – as you try to go on your merry way, you’ll randomly get challenged to a showdown.
During showdowns, you match up blocks to accumulate different skill points to use any abilities you’ve learned. To win a match, you have to either fill the opponent’s Loyalty meter (by matching up hearts) or by depleting their stamina (by matching up whips – insert jokes about “whipping” people into shape here). If you match up four or more, you get another turn. There’s also a wild icon that you can match with any other icon and a chameleon icon that changes into whatever it lands on. As you win showdowns, you’ll get experience – called “popularity” in the game – and levels when you’ve accrued enough popularity. The more levels you gain, the more skills you can learn. The way you win showdowns influences your alignment, though it doesn’t seem to influence all that much outside of whether you don a halo or devil horns on the world map.
In Clueless, you assemble outfits according to a guy’s specifications from an array of random pieces of clothing before time runs out. You earn a grade depending on how closely each part of the outfit matches the guy’s preferences and the style you’re supposed to be aiming for. A high grade nets a boyfriend bonus, which increments a heart meter for that guy towards the girl modeling the clothes. You can earn powerups such as a shuffle that grants you a different selection of clothes, receiving a bonus for a certain pose, or doubling the amount of points you get from a certain guy. You have to earn at least an average of B- in order to reach the next level, which is not too onerous a minimum point, especially if you use your powerups. There are also memory matching bonus levels that sometimes crop up after you beat a level wherein you’re shown a pose and outfit and have to recreate both in a limited time period. You can hit the hint button up to three times if you find yourself stuck. Of course, your score will be higher if you don’t use it and the more quickly and accurately you recreate the pose and outfit.
Pretty in Pink essentially consists of minigames, mostly involving finding hidden objects. During these object search segments, you can also try and find rubber duckies and sports cars. How many of each you collect affects the ending you get. Pieces of clothing Andie can use to assemble her prom dress are also scattered around the different object finding puzzles. In addition, there’s other minigames like a version of concentration, wherein you flip up two cards to reveal two matching or related objects. Sometimes you’ll have to determine what order objects go where based on clues, as in putting ingredients in a pot or reshelving books in the right place. You’ll also be presented with jigsaw puzzles and two near-identical pictures wherein you have to spot the differences.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Good
Once you’ve played through each game, there’s not much more to see in another playthrough. You could go back and try to earn higher scores in Clueless if you felt so inclined, or unlock all the trophies in that and Mean Girls, but doing so would only yield brownie points and, if applicable, a quelling of your inner completionist. There are three possible endings in Pretty in Pink, so you could replay it to get them all if you really, really want to see the other endings and you really liked the puzzles in that game. But once all’s said and done, there’s not much reason to go back.
Replayability Rating: Poor
All three games were fairly easy, in spite of the fact that you can adjust the difficulty level in Mean Girls and Clueless. There seems to be no real consequences for failing other than having to do the puzzle/level over again. In Pretty in Pink, the only real roadblock you might run into is if the types of puzzle in the game aren’t your forte or if the picture in your head is different from the game’s version (i.e. seeing “iron owl” in the list and imagining a whole owl statue when it’s really just the head the game wants you to find). Even then, you could still get through it using the hint button if you’re feeling impatient, though that has a long recharge time, so the potential for abuse is limited there.
The random factor would be the main source of any difficulty in Clueless, as sometime you’ll get a selection of clothes that don’t line up too well with the guy’s preference. But even when that happened, I still managed to get a decent score most of the time just from cobbling together whatever came closest to fitting the list, so even that’s not that big an obstacle. Cher would also randomly comment on something you put on the girl, and often times following those cues would lead to a better score.
There is also a random factor in Mean Girls in the layout of the blocks and how easily you could get a match from them, but even an unfavorable board doesn’t hamper you much. It does get annoying if the opponent manages to pull off a long combo that leaves you going, “Dude, this is getting ridiculous.” Then again, that just makes it all the sweeter when the same happens to you.
Balance Rating: Mediocre
On the one hand, video game adaptions of movies aren’t usually considered original since they’re basically the movie in game format. On the other hand, this is the first video game adaptation for any of the movies, so that’s something, I suppose. They did do a good job of incorporating a variety of gameplay styles across the three games and making them fit with the movie they’re based on, so they do get points for that.
Originality: Above Average
These games are more suited to playing in short bursts than in long marathons, but you could certainly do the latter if you so desired. There’s not much replay value once you’re done, but getting to that point is surprisingly entertaining. It’s easy enough so that you don’t run into any walls and varied enough so that it doesn’t get monotonous to play through the three games.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
I’m puzzled as to why they would choose to make games based on movies that are 5, 10, and 23 years old. Their target audience, those that saw the movies as teens and liked them, have already grown up and likely wouldn’t be interested in playing a video game based on a movie they saw years ago. Unless, of course, they happened to be fervent fans of the movies, but I’m dubious as to how much of that group would really overlap with the gaming crowd.
They might make decent starting point for children or someone just getting into gaming due to how easy they are, the different styles of gameplay represented, and the non-intimidating way they’re packaged. However, I can’t really see this breaking any sales records, considering how some males seem to believe anything pink and girly will give them hives and cause certain parts to fall off as though hit by a spell of leprosy. I’m sure these types of games has their audience, or else they wouldn’t keep getting made. After all, what company would want to pour money and time into a game that wouldn’t turn a profit? But for me, who grew up playing a wide variety of games, it didn’t hold much lasting appeal.
Appeal Factor Rating: Poor
If you’ll allow me to step on a soapbox for a moment…
I’ve never really been a big fan of the whole “treating the female segment of the gaming population as a genre rather than a demographic” practice that many companies still like to do. Now, I’m all for experimenting and branching out into territory that hasn’t necessarily seen much treading, and trying to reach new areas of the market. That being said, there’s a difference in marketing to a certain group in an attempt to tap into that market and relying on an outdated mold in trying to make games to appeal to said group and assuming they never play anything else, no exceptions.
Now, this is not a reprobation on Legacy Interactive, nor is this the worst example out there. It’s just something that’s been bouncing around my head, and this compilation further reminded me of that. While the games themselves weren’t horrid, and they might make good starting points for people just getting into gaming or younger children, they’re not something I would’ve picked up on my own, as someone who grew up playing games.
I should probably stop here before this section ends up longer than the rest of the review. OK, stepping off soapbox now.
Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Poor
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary: Considering that the games would cost $10 each if you buy them separately, $20 for three games is not a bad deal. There are flash demos of each game on the developer’s website, so you could give it a try before plunking down the cash if that suits your fancy. This could be good for someone who doesn’t have much experience with games and also happens to like things with girly veneers. However, I can’t really see many longtime gamers being drawn to this compilation.