In the last couple of weeks, Megan and Alix have given us reviews of the Hunger Games FB game and Pottermore. But what about those who love contemporary, realistic YA? Mean girls, hot boys, Friday night football, and the caf makes an awesome video game, right? I'm not much of a gamer -- I only have an original NES, and despite countless drunken hours in college, have never beaten even the first Super Mario Bros. -- but ads for EA's Surviving High School kept popping up on my phone. Swayed by the chance to go back to high school again (haha, yeah right), and the excuse to call playing a game "background research", I shelled out a whopping 99 cents -- I usually never buy apps -- and checked it out. The things I do for you.
What's the Deal?
Go back to high school, where you get to choose between being the new girl, out to beat her bitchy cousin for a spot on the cheer squad, or a new guy trying to make the football team without getting beaten up by jealous boyfriends. Each week, there's also a new chapter in an ongoing soap-opera-esque story, where you play different characters trying to achieve something like being elected class president.
How's it Lookin'?
It's not exactly high art, but each setting is pretty detailed and not distracting. The characters, on the other hand, are about as lame as possible. In real life high school, NONE of these guys would be popular, and the nerds are more stereotypical than Steve Urkel. In an attempt at humor, people throw out bizarre one-liners, especially the TMI-spouting, spinster guidance counselor, who just makes no sense at all.
WTF?? Who is this guy?
I do kind of like Taylor, the bitchy head cheerleader, who says things like, "I'm talking about your FANCY-PANTS FACE," and wish I could play her. It's nothing like high school, but my husband says Call of Duty is nothing like actual war either, and that doesn't stop people from playing it.
As for the music and sound effects? GOD AWFUL.
For girls, you just get to choose your name. Guys get to pick among five different avatars, mostly all douchey.
Mostly, the game just involves reading endless conversations between the characters, I guess trying to learn more about the school, interspersed with occasional choices. Which class will you attend? History, where you can suck up to the head cheerleader, or gym, where you can practice your cheerleading moves by playing a word search game (go to gym. Seriously. It's lame, but less boring than history class).
The asshole math teacher probably hits on students, too.
Other than the word search game or the football game (if you're playing the "new guy" story), sometimes a timed screen will pop up, and you have to choose the right action out of four, over and over. Think fast! Do you flirt, sneeze, run or vomit on your first date? Or you might be in your room after school, and have to choose who to call to hang out with.
And in class, you might get a pop quiz related to the subject -- what was the letter in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, or what happened in 1066? Make the right choice on the quizzes and get points. Say the right thing to your classmates, and I think you get points (the scoring isn't exactly transparent in this game). You'll learn valuable lessons, like:
• Don't be fat
• Cheating on homework is good
• Only losers like math. It's supposed to be hard for girls!
I haven't noticed anything wonky or buggy in the game. I did actually spend the 99 cents to get the ad-free version, and from my limited iPhone game experience, you'll probably run into inexplicable crashes thanks to the ads in the free version.
TL;DR or What's the Verdict?
This game is a cross between Sweet Valley High, Choose Your Own Adventure, and WordMunchers which means it should be totally lame but is actually completely AWESOME -- at first. After a while, much like Sweet Valley High, it gets tedious. They remind me a little of that Nickelodeon show Fifteen, what with story lines like the kid who becomes popular by rescuing a cheerleader from an earthquake and then becoming her boyfriend. Despite the wtf-ery of the plots, the narrative portions drag on FOREVER. If it went a little faster, I'd play it more. I do wish there was a way to track my choices or change an answer, like keeping a bookmark at the decision page in CYOA, because I'm not dedicated enough to play through the game over and over to see if I get a new result.
Will I keep playing? Probably. I'll even download the free weekly episodes every now and then, although I haven't even made it through my first one yet, because of the slow pacing.