Recoil in terror.
Though Emeril will tell you otherwise, the way to a woman's heart is actually through her ears. Say the right things in the right order and even the most callous witch will ignore that gigantic zit on your nose just to plant a wet one on those lying, conniving lips. If it worked for Cyrano De Bergerac, it's bound to work for you, right?
Right - provided you are playing Ubisoft's latest DS entry, an innuendo-fest called Sprung. Part bad dating sim, part Choose Your Own Adventure book and absolutely no part game, this curious piece of misdirection is about as sexy as a blind date with your mom.
Sprung is basically a localized version of those Japanese dating games you hear about every so often. The genre has thrived in Japan for years, but then again, so have soiled schoolgirl panty machines.
You play as either Brett or Becky, two friends out to find romance during a weekend excursion at a ski resort. They're clearly enamored with one another, but of course they're both too stupid to admit it. It's like Hot Dog: The Movie, just without the skiing and sex. It's also without action, strategy, or adventure.
So what, then, do you do in Sprung? What any self-respecting, hormonally-charged teenager would do: answer multiple choice questions! Sprung's "gameplay" involves talking to people by selecting from pre-written responses to their text-based conversation. Figure out the correct way to get through the dialogue and you'll complete the scene. Then you save and continue to the next scene, at which point the thrilling world of selecting pre-written responses to text-based conversation continues. Are you getting hot?
To the game's credit (and this is a VERY small credit), the dialogue is actually well-written in a Dawson's Creek, American Pie sort of way. If you're a teenager obsessed with talking, sounding, and acting like a teenager, you'll probably think it's rather funny. Maybe. If you're dumb.
But even if you spend your days and nights staring at Tiger Beat magazine and watching 90210 reruns, you will grow tired of Sprung in about five minutes. The characters are little more than classic teen movie stereotypes, including the stoner buddy, the snobby rich kid, the hippy chick and the scummy playboy.
Where things get really bad is in the terribly boring trial-and-error "gameplay." There are only one or two acceptable paths to any given conversation " all others lead to a 'Game Over' and the opportunity to restart the scene. This means randomly selecting responses, hitting a dead end, and trying again. Some of the longer scenes might require a good twenty responses before you can save, so expect to just repeat them over and over again until you narrow down the correct path. Do this fifty times and there you have the Sprung version of "gameplay."
Look, we don't require that much out of our games, but it's absolutely essential that a game contains some real gameplay. Sprung does not. You do not have to conserve lives, because you have unlimited chances to get it right. There is no skill required to get through the game, only time, memorization, and enough patience to not hurl the thing into the fireplace.
They tried to spruce it up by pretending this was an adventure game, going so far as giving you an inventory and rewarding you with a constant stream of items. However, you'll only use a few of them to "solve' conversations, and even that seems totally random. Besides, any vague comparisons between Sprung and an adventure game abruptly end when you consider that you do not move at all. You do not explore at all. You do not do anything at all other than march through a strictly linear progression of scenes by choosing the correct responses. It's about as adventurous and interactive as watching TV.
That goes for the technical aspects of this hateful love-in, too. Sprung uses both DS screens by showing the person you're trying to woo on top, with your avatar and responses on the bottom. You can use the touch screen to select responses, but it's much, much easier to just use the D-pad to scroll and A to select. And thus ends Sprung's use of the DS's advanced functions.
At least it looks okay'what little of it you see, that is. The art style is pretty hip; characters are drawn well and they animate nicely. I can't speak for the environments because there are none.
For a game based entirely on dialogue, it's a little surprising that Sprung's sound is so completely retarded. There is no speech at all, only terrible music tracks that loop incessantly as you plod through the conversations. Hooray for the DS volume knob!
And boo to whoever decided this thing was fit for release in North America. It's sort of a non-game, this Sprung, cleverly disguised to look and sound like one. But don't be fooled by this teen temptress - she'll only break your heart.