Game Review: Dandelion – Wishes Brought To You

Thanks to the never-ending winter the east coast seems to find itself in, I was snowed in earlier this week.  And what better way to pass the time than with a short game?  Given that the two console games I’m playing at the moment are longer games, I decided to pick up something more casual on the PC.  Recently, I’ve had the urge to try my hand at visual novel games.  These types of games tend to be more akin to interactive stories than traditional games, & more often than not are dating sims.  I’ve often thought I could get into romance stories if I felt I had some control over them.  So after a search through Steam for the most popular visual novels aimed at females (because I don’t want to play as a dude trying to pick up chicks), I downloaded Dandelion – Wishes Brought to You.

If they only have animal ears does it still count as "furry"?

If they only have animal ears does it still count as “furry”?

In Dandelion, you play as Heejung Kim, a stressed out Korean college student.  Heejung has felt pressured all her life to be the perfect student; Perfect grades, perfect resume, perfect job.  But after struggling to keep up with so many demands, Heejung feels nothing more than anxiety & apathy towards her future.  Then one day, she awakens to find a basket of animals have mysteriously appeared in her bedroom.  After some initial hesitation, Heejung decides that keeping the animals will help cheer her up.  As she grows closer to the animals, she soon realizes that these aren’t normal animals.  They’re actually five young men who’ve been transported to her world by a Wizard to fulfill a mysterious contract.  But as the months progress, it becomes apparent that this “game” involves Heejung in some way, & that the puppet master doesn’t have the best of intentions towards Heejung.

How awkward would it be if your pets suddenly became humans?

How awkward would it be if your pets suddenly became humans?

Dandelion is what’s known as an “Otome” game, meaning it centers around a single female protagonist surrounded by potential male suitors.  As Heejung, you choose one of the five men to pursue while going about her daily life.  Gameplay consists of choosing a daily activity that increases Heejung’s stats.  Certain activities increase the chance of interacting with one the men in the house, where you can choose interactions that hopefully increase their affections for you.  You can also choose to go on dates with your potential, go to work to earn money, or go shopping for items that increase your stats or buy gifts.  Ultimately, the goal is to increase your chosen character’s affection enough to progress the story… but you only have a year to do so, so you have to balance your time wisely.

Narrative: Dandelion’s protagonist hits a little closer to home than I’d care to admit.  Heejung is a very believable, relatable character.  Her struggles to find what makes her happy in life in the midst of the pressure to keep up her academic performance and an uncertain future are sympathetic.  She is, however, more than a bit clueless (although the extent does depend on which route you take).  And that’s saying something coming from a woman who’s admittedly pretty dense about when men are flirting with her.  Especially towards the end, when all of the guys start talking about Heejung being happy even if they “disappear” & not having much time left.  I also liked that there are a variety of guy-types to choose from.  The five men seem to cover most of the tropes for romance stories; the rough-around-the-edges-but-good-hearted loner, the cold & polite hottie, the arrogant-to-keep-his-distance sassy one, the eager & clingy one, & the is-this-legal pretty boy.  I’ve only played through 3/5 of the routes, but I like that each character’s story plays out differently.  My only complaint about the story is that, once you’ve pick the character you want to pursue, you can’t really interact with any of the others.  Well, you can, but often having too much affection with more than one character will give you the Bad Ending.  Also, aside from good & bad endings, you don’t have a lot of control over how the relationship progresses.  Discounting choosing how to display affection or where to go on dates, the progression is linear.  Also, the endings are a bit vague.  They’re not, just bittersweet & open-ended, but that’s probably just my preference to happy endings.  But overall, in spite of some fantastical elements, I thought the story was well-paced & realistic.  Score: 4

The in-game hud

The in-game hud

Mechanics: Gameplay can become very repetitive, especially after the first time you’ve played through.  Everyday you pick an activity, originally hoping to monopolize on the ones that allow you to interact with your chosen beau or increase your stats to meet the requirements to continue the relationship.  But after that, you’re just wanting to reach the next milestone to see the next cutscene.  It starts to feel like busywork after a while.  I wish there had been button shortcuts for the quick save & quick load, because it’s necessary to use them frequently.  I also wasn’t thrilled about the dates you can go one.  You can go out on the weekends to one of several locations, but there isn’t much to do on the dates.  You only get two dialogue choices, & it’s over.  Gameplay in general is pretty sparse, with the emphasis on the story.  If you plan to play through all the stories (which is necessary to unlock the bonus chapter to see what the Wizard’s beef is with Heejung), you’ll find yourself spamming the enter key to speed through the messages just to reach the next milestone.  I also took issue with the stats some of the activities increased.  In general, you need to increase Heejung’s artistic, beauty & femininity traits while managing her stress & pressure levels.  Most of the time it makes sense what traits the activities increase.  Obviously sketching would increase her artistic score while taking a bubble bath would increase beauty.  But why does talking to plants increase my femininity?  Or watching infomercials increase my beauty?  It’s not really a problem, just weird.  Score: 2

As risque as the scenes get

As risque as the scenes get

Aesthetics: Being a visual novel, most of the scenes are still images.  That being said, the artwork is very nice.  The characters are nicely detailed, and the special scenes are quite beautiful & artistically done.  Of course, they’re in anime-style, so if you prefer more realistic designs this might not be your cup of tea.  Also, for those worried this might be one of the more adult novels, the scenes are pretty tame.  Aside from kissing & some suggestive comments (which usually go right over Heejung’s head) it stays safely within its rating.  The music, like the gameplay, can become repetitive, especially the song that loops when your in the everyday menu.  Dandelion only has a few musical scores, actually, which tend to be situational.  Aside from the general one, there’s the one for angry scenes, the one for emotional scenes, the one for dates, and the “sexy-time” score.  I joke, & it is a nice piece, but I challenge anyone who hears it not to feel like you’ve just walked into a porno scene.  The opening theme is also really nice.  Also be aware that the spoken dialogue is in Korean.  It can sometimes be hard to judge foreign voiceacting, but I thought they voices were well done.  They always seemed to hit the right tone for the lines.  However, I did notice some typos in the writing.  I don’t speak Korean, so I can’t speak for the translation, but there were typos in rare instances, like using the wrong name to address a character.  Also, sometimes to English words didn’t fit in the space properly & got cut off.  It wasn’t enough to throw off the atmosphere of the game, but it was noticeable.  Score: 4

Replay Value: Fairly high.  Although I can understand if most people only play through one or two of the stories with the characters they like, as I mentioned you can unlock a bonus chapter that fills in the questions about how the five men came in contact with the Wizard & why he want to hurt Heejung so badly if you get the good ending with all of the men.  And after the first time, the play time shortens reasonably, aided by the fact that you can skip entire scenes.  Score: 3

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: I can’t see most gamers, male or female, giving this game a chance, but it’s not bad.  The price is a bit steep for it’s length, but if you’re into this sort of thing or what to give visual novel-style games a shot & have a day to spare, it’s worth a look.  The story is sweet & it has more than enough eye candy to keep most women happy for the duration.

- GamerDame

Title: Dandelion – Wishes Brought to You
Console: PC
Rating: E10+
Developer: Cheritz
Publisher: Cheritz
Release Date: August 27, 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under PC, Reviews, Visual Novel

Game Review: Mirror’s Edge

Have you ever been playing a game that made you scream so much, your roommates came in your room wondering what you issue was?  Well, that was my experience with Mirror’s Edge.  Or at least it would’ve been, had after the first rage-inducing moments not wizened me up & I made sure to only play the game when no one else was at home.  So what was it about this game that made me continually yell & curse at a pixelated character?

I didn't realize until the end that the game's logo is Faith's eye

I didn’t realize until the end that the game’s logo is Faith’s eye

Mirror’s Edge takes place in one of the classic futuristic scenarios: a utopian-shell of a society that’s actually a totalitarian dictatorship.  In this Big Brother future, you play as Faith, a Runner.  Runners act as illegal couriers, smuggling messages & packages along the rooftops.  Faith quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy to cover up a mayoral candidate’s assassination.  When her sister, a cop, is framed for the murder, Faith sets out to use her skills & contacts to track down why the candidate was killed & who was responsible.  But the cops aren’t going to make that easy, given that Faith herself is a suspect for removing evidence from the crime scene.

Hope you're not afraid of heights

Hope you’re not afraid of heights

Mirror’s Edge is a parkour-platformer set entirely in first-person.  The game alternates between platforming “puzzles,” where you must navigate various city obstacles to reach your goal, & combat.  Faith can use a variety of abilities to reach her destination, from wall running to zip lines.  Although Faith doesn’t carry any weapons, she is skilled in unarmed combat, using her speed to take out enemies.  She can also disarm enemies, & use their guns if she feels so inclined.  To help in disarming, players can activate Reaction Time, which slows things down momentarily, making it easy to read the cues when you can safely disarm someone.

Narrative: I can’t help feeling there’s a lot of things the game just fell flat at conveying.  The overall plot makes sense, in that I get what’s going on, but there are a lot of nuances that just don’t stick.  The big one to me was why is this new government so bad?  I get the sense they’re going for this Big Brother vibe, but I just don’t see it.  The game just doesn’t show why the government is bad & why the Runners are good.  It only mentions protests twenty years prior to the start of the game, where Faith’s mom was killed when they devolved into riots when the police tried to stop them, but they never just come out & say, “This is why they’re bad.”  It’s like we’re just expected to take for granted that the government’s bad.  It can’t be all bad if the only crime that exists is illegal communiques.  I was also a bit lost about the whole Project Icarus thing.  So the government wanted to train soldiers to hunt the Runners to bring the Runners under government control to work as terrorists?  The ending was also crap.  It just ends with Faith & Kate standing on the top of a skyscraper.  Great, I saved my sister.  But what about all those soldiers who were trying to shoot me three seconds ago?  Did they just give up because I blew up their helicopter?  Aside from those complaints, most of the characters had distinctive personalities, & I felt they did a good job of establishing the relationship between Faith & Merc.  But (again) I saw that double-cross coming a mile away.  So overall, the plot is serviceable, but expected the player to believe more than what the game provides for.  Score: 3

Takes guts to fight a swat team unarmed

Takes guts to fight a swat team unarmed

Mechanics: I really could’ve gotten into this game… if it hadn’t worked so hard against itself.  The first-person view really lends itself to getting you immersed in what you’re doing.  Scenery blurs as you run, the camera wobbles, & you can see your arms & legs.  But every time I started getting in the flow the game, becoming one with the parkour path, the game would knock me out of it like getting hit by a semi.  The two biggest problems in terms of gameplay are the combat & controls.  The game relies too much in later levels on making you take on large groups of enemies, & you can’t progress until you do.  But the combat system isn’t geared for fighting large groups.  It’s more designed for taking on a few enemies scattered out.  Faith can regen health, but she can’t take many hits.  A problem that becomes very noticeable in the last two chapters when enemies get machine guns.  The game would’ve felt so much better if they either stuck to smaller groups of enemies or letting me run away from them all together.  I really enjoyed the scenes were I had to duck & dive from a sniper or run away from Runner-trained soldiers.  Those parts were exhilarating.  The second problem is that the controls aren’t precise enough for the platforming, especially later.  I found Faith moving at times I didn’t tell her to, usually resulting in her falling off a narrow ledge.  I also found myself glitching through some of the obstacles, somehow climbing up places I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be able to climb.  I think a lot of these issues could’ve been avoided if they’d used different buttons for jumping & climbing.  As I said, it’s a shame these problems draw you out of the experience so much, because there are nice sequences that really make you feel them.  Score: 3

Moody art

Moody art

Aesthetics: Mirror’s Edge has two distinct styles.  In-game, the visuals are nice & crisp, with plenty of bloom & contrasting colors.  I really like the aesthetics of the city.  It looks slightly futuristic; like everything has this metallic sheen to it.  I think it lends well to the feel of being on a rooftop.  The colors also make it easy to see the bright red items that mark your path.  During the cutscenes, however, the style is simpler.  They use cell-shaded animation.  It’s a matter of personal taste whether you like this stye, but I think the sharp contrasts in color and shading fit in well with the regular look of the game.  It kinda looks… harsh.  Edgy, I guess.  The sound design is also pretty good.  I liked the music in this game, although I noticed it tends to fade in & out at random.  It’s electronica, so some people might not like it, but again I think it fits with the game’s themes.  The voiceacting is also pretty good.  Score: 5

Replay Value: Limited.  I think the replay value for most gamers will come from the time trials & race options.  These are smaller snippets from the levels where you compete for a faster time.  You can also download other gamers’ “ghosts” to race against.  I think for players who liked the parkour aspect, they’ll get the most enjoyment out of these levels.  Score: 3

Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: Mirror’s Edge is an interesting attempt at something new that doesn’t quite meet expectations.  Hopefully, if there is to be a Mirror’s Edge 2, the developers will learn from others’ critiques & focus more on parkour & less on fighting.  But as it stands, I think it’s at least a good rent for someone with a weekend to spare.

- GamerDame

Title: Mirror’s Edge
Console: PC, PS3, 360, iOS
Rating: T
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 11, 2008

1 Comment

Filed under PC, Platformer, PS3, Reviews, XBox 360