October 5, 2012 1:00 AM | Staff
[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the Oktoberfest Bundle running on IndieGames' co-created site, Indie Royale.]
So what is Mousechief's Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble! supposed to be? That's certainly an interesting question to ponder. On one hand it's a bit of a visual novel adventure, with plenty of dialogue, mystery, decisions and clues to discover in the unique 1920s school setting. In another light it's a RPG, where Rebellion, Glamour and Savvy take over the roles of strength and dexterity. You could easily call it a casual game, and the developers certainly do, with simple to pick-up gameplay that can be indulged in for a couple of hours or toyed with for ten minutes. Technically speaking you could even call it a board game, and the lovely visuals would fully support that claim. Regardless, it's a game that you absolutely should check out, because it's terrific.
The main action of Dangerous High School Girls begins by offering you the pick of your very own queen, the girl who will lead your pack of outrageous flappers. While your chosen archetype should be fairly well rounded, she won't get far on her own and you'll have to recruit girls into your gang to help out with the various minigames. These include fibbing, a simplified combination of poker and cheat, exposing, a cryptoquote like guessing game, flirting, a deductive matching puzzle, and taunting, a splendid variation on Monkey Island's insult swordfighting, sans swords. Each game is simple, but integrated into the overarching gameplay quite well. For example, there's an entire catch em all metagame to collecting all the insults and retorts, while exposing secrets is a great way to get background on the current events plaguing the school.
Oh yes, there are nefarious things afoot for these girls. There's a mystery to solve, and minigames are just a prompt for confronting troubling events and tracking down suspicious characters, with each girl offering a different and appropriate response to suit their skills. Behaving scandalously in this manner reveals more and more threads of the conspiracy that threatens these rebellious mystery solving teens. It's all very well plotted, with a certain degree of non-linearity and many conditional branches to affect the overall arc. It's all presented with an infallible degree of period accuracy, as anyone familiar with the era will be able to see just how well the developers captured the style while lovingly satirizing it.
Sounds confusing, yeah? Well it isn't once you get into the narrative, but it certainly is a unique mishmash of styles. Still though, Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble is definitely a hidden highlight of the Oktoberfest Royale iteration. It's got piles of well deserved critical acclaim, with gameplay that simply isn't matched anywhere else. I wouldn't blame you for being skeptical, but please do give it a shot. This one is a real pleasant surprise.
The Witch's Yarn:
Following standard bundle bonus procedures, we also get a crack at an earlier Mousechief game entitled The Witch's Yarn. This one is far less genre defying than those dangerous girls, but overall it's still a nicely unique visual novel spin. Wednesday is a widowed witch who wants to open a mundane yarn shop, and must deal with the shenanigans of her magical family in the process.
Decisions and story are handled a bit differently here, as the game casts you not as a player but as a director. Each scene is prompted by your choice of cue, which has a rather neat overall effect on the storytelling. Sometimes the system is simply used in fairly standard question and answer puzzles, while other times the effects are rather different. For example, cuing a character might prompt them to speak first, which may change the direction of a scene or shuffle around the order events occur in. You definitely see shades of Dangerous High School Girls' open narrative, but on a much smaller scale.
It certainly feels like an earlier example of Mousechief's output and it does pale in contrast to the much grander high school drama, but The Witch's Yarn is still a charming and simple story told in a neat way. It's certainly a worthwhile bonus, and the unique framework of Wednesday's story might just pique your interest.
[Dangerous High School Girls, The Witch's Yarn, The Network, Hector: Badge of Carnage, Chime, and The Adventures of Shuggy are available in the current Oktoberfest Bundle on Indie Royale.]