With the success of lifestyle games like The Sims, it was only a matter of time before game developers expanded the genre for the teenie set. Electronic Arts‘ latest offering Surviving High School is an honest attempt to do just that. The game plays not like simulation per se; it is more like an interactive story with a series of mini-games thrown in. Like in Fable, decisions early on effect people’s perceptions of you. Ultimately, these decisions limit what players can do towards the end of the game’s campaign. For example, should you choose study instead of watching television, you won’t be as popular and therefore you’re limited in both friends and dating partners. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
Presentation: The game carries competent visuals along with a musical score that does its job. Simple, static shots of a classroom or hallway fill a screen while bubbles with characters’ head speak to players to progress the plot. The controls are simple; players touch a choice and story moves on.
Mini-games: Success in mini-games also effect the plot. Trivia in the form of homework might spur players to brush up on their academic skills while the weekly football game built into the first season of the title adds a nice climax to each in-game week. However, because the difficulty in these games is almost non-existent, the best function they serve is to separate the talk of plot-driving scenes that sometimes labor on and on.
Replay Value: Since different choices lead to different scenarios, players might enjoy replaying this title to see how complex the interactive story takes them.
Stereotypes: One shouldn’t expect too much from a game that centers around the high school experience, but the blatant stereotypes and canned dialogue scream cliche. Although some characters’ motivations evolve into a decent story arch, the game will harken more memories from Degrassi High than The Wonder Years; there’s nothing conceptually here that exceeds the episode of a WB television series.
Female Representation: Much has been said about female under-representation in video games. Unfortunately, this game, too, repeats the same mistakes so many developers make. Those wishing to play female characters have no option to do so. This is especially odd. Considering the game’s casual approach and he-said/she-said story, this game seems poised for the female demographic.
Episodes: Continuing the game in the form of weekly episodes seems like a good choice, but this soon loses its appeal when players discover that their previous avatar is no longer accessible. Instead of extending the plot using your original character, players are stuck assuming the roles of secondary characters from the original campaign. In the developer’s defense, there are extra episodes available at $0.99 each which may add more content than the free weekly extension this gamer explored.
Although Surviving High School fails to deliver one-tenth of the charm or insight of a good John Hughes flick, there is enough drama here for those who relish in less poignant fair. Younger teens and those adults wishing to relive their formative years may get a kick out of this title, but there’s little here for anyone who has discovered the wider world that exists beyond high school.
Surviving High School was developed Electronic Arts and is available for $2.99. The game’s 1.0.0 version was played on an iPod Touch 2G equipped with OS 3.1.1 software. There’s also a lite version to try.