Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble - 2/20 hours

Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble is not very fun. Aspects of the game are fun. The way the dialogue mimics the sort of clipped and trashy, yet unexpectedly formal 20s mid-Atlantic dialect is fun. Jazz music is fun. Directing a gang of tough-talking, flirty old-timey mean-girls as they barge their way into a serious criminal investigation is fun. In fact, almost everything about the game's presentation and story is fun - except for the game itself.

At the heart of the game is a mystery. You attempt to gather information about your school's mysterious rash of "accidents" by going to various locations on the map and talking to people there. This usually initiates one of four mini-games, all of which are terrible. If you win, you get a new clue to move you on your way and if you lose, one of the girls in your gang is removed from play for a little while (unless you lose with your "queen," in which case the girl is removed permanently).

The minigames themselves are only notionally skill-based. "Fib" is basically Liar's Dice, but without the human element that makes calling a bluff a compelling test of nerve in the real world. "Taunt" is occasionally funny, in that you have to match an insult with a witty retort, but is coldly deterministic - the correct answers are obvious, but you only learn correct answers by having faced them in previous bouts. "Gambit" is the most complex, so I won't explain the rules just yet, but it mainly boils down to predicting what the AI will do. "Expose" is probably the most skill-based of the games, where you are given an obscured message, usually 3-4 sentences in length, and a number of opportunities to reveal individual words. Once you run out of reveals, you must guess the remaining words by choosing from a list of six and based on the context of message at a whole.

"Expose" is tedious, but it's the sort of tedium in which I thrive, and I wind up going for it far more than any of the others (which sounds fine, except you want to spread out your minigame victories in the hopes of leveling up all your gang, and whenever you encounter a minigame opportunity, each of your four girls can give you a different option). My main problem with "expose" is that the game's story is its biggest appeal, but for the minigame to work, essential pieces of plot-relevant information are held back behind a not-very-good guessing game.

I definitely want to stick with the adventures of my rebellious clique of teen avengers, but I have an uneasy feeling about the hours to come. What will win out? My interest in the complex web of intrigue that embroils the local high school is very strong. But my disinterest in playing shitty word games for another eight hours is also very strong.

Which impulse is stronger in the long run?  I guess I'm about to find out.

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