"The one thing that The Sims sold was complexity; the thing that Brooktown sells is fun. From the very beginning, you realize it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game starts out with huge-headed, tiny-bodied characters playing volleyball, jumping freeways on skateboards and racing to class, while “Out Here All Night”, an upbeat and edgy tune blares in the background. "
Simulation games confuse me.
On the surface, one would think them to be dull, redundant and too much like real life--completely voiding the escape that one tries to get from playing games in the first place. Yet oddly enough, the great ones usually end up keeping me red-eyed and without sleep; unable to drag myself back into reality--a reality they completely mirror. Although I’m long since out of High School, Brooktown was one of those games--a mix of incredible emulation and simplistic fun that I haven’t seen since The Sims, even though Brooktown is a far cry from The Sims.
In the best way possible.
The one thing that The Sims sold was complexity; the thing that Brooktown sells is fun. From the very beginning, you realize it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game starts out with huge-headed, tiny-bodied characters playing volleyball, jumping freeways on skateboards and racing to class, while “Out Here All Night”, an upbeat and edgy tune blares in the background.
Yet even when the pace slows and you’re asked to create a character, Brooktown uses a different angle than most sims. Once you’re happy with the basic look of your character you move on to creating the personality type. You’re given a series of questions, most of which are easy to peg, and your total score determines if you’re a prep, a jock, a nerd or a rebel. Depending on where you fall, one of the four attibutes--athletics, charm, creativity or smarts--will get a huge boost percentage boost. These attributes determine who you’re most likely to get along with at Brooktown High, and who you’re going to have to work extra hard to get to like you.
And with that, it’s back to school.
Brooktown is fairly straight-forward from then on. No complicated controls, no button mashing and certainly no torrid, grim storylines. Your goal is simple: Graduate. Get into a good college, hopefully make it to prom, maybe make out a few times and ensure that your parents don’t punish you for bad grades. Again, simple.
Then again, sometimes the simplest things can be the most fun.
Brooktown’s charm lies in both its interaction and its variety. Four classes--French, P.E., Physics and Art--are available and each one is going to boost a certain stat. The higher the grade, the higher the stat boost. When you are at school and not in class, there are a good twenty to thirty people that you can create relationships with. Depending on your stats, you will click with some people right away and others will chastise you. Play it cool and you’ll win them over; completely blow it and it may take you the entire game to win their respect back.
Each person is given a place on Brooktown’s Relationship Meter. Everyone starts out in the middle. Depending upon your interactions with them, they move either up into friendly status or down into enemy territory.
The cool thing is, it’s all up to you. You can breeze through the entire year and focus only on your studies and your extracurricular activities. You won’t be very popular, mind you, but who doesn’t have fun sitting at their desk on a Saturday night? If you find someone that you like, you can crank it up and focus all of your attention on them, seeing how far you can actually take it before the year ends. If studying or serious relationships aren’t your thing, you can go for complete and utter popularity. This is perhaps the most entertaining and time-consuming route to go.
Becoming popular is a mix of saying the right thing, wearing the right clothes, making sure all of your stats are up to everyone’s standards and doing favors for people. Most of these tasks are done outside of school, but thankfully Brooktown has a few neat little tools to help you complete the job.
When you’re not in school, you’re in your room complete with a desk, computer, dresser, boom box and bed. The computer is where you do all of your shopping, join clubs, look for work, apply for college and a play one of the three entertaining mini-games, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Clubs are a good way to maintain your grades without constantly sitting at your desk and a job is a good way to afford all those wonderful clothes. The dresser is where you’re going to try them out. (You probably could have guessed that.)
The bed--aside from sleeping--and the boom box--aside from music--are for the other two mini-games mentioned above. Jump on the computer and you can play 21 Knickers, a strip version of Black Jack that will boost your charm and smarts. Approaching the boom box lets you play a mock version of DDR using your control pad. Walking over to your bed lets you play The Kissing Game, where you basically move a set of lips around to catch hearts and avoid distractions. Each mini-game allows you a little bit of variety from the typical mundane and it also gives you a boost to one or more stat. You know just in case you’re not a fan of say… going to class, (even though it’s brief).
Which leads me to my major issue with Brooktown: The follow through. With well thought out dialogue and hundreds of options, the interaction is amazing but it can be way too short sometimes. The only time you’re able to socialize with people you don’t know is the beginning of the week, only for a half an hour if you leave right after you get up, and seeing as the game is time lapsed, thirty minutes usually equates to about five in real time. I appreciate the fact that classes breeze by and you don’t have to sit there for countless hours while your character hits the books, but the most important thing about High School--the mingling--goes by just as fast. You can always call some of your closer friends on Saturday but the dialogue there isn’t as original. There’s always dates on the weekend, as well, but you have to really know someone before you get one. If you’re not aiming to be the number one guy (or girl) at Brooktown High, the game can go by pretty quick. Which makes me kind of sad.
Complaints end there. All the little things that tie a game together are outstanding. Controls in a Sim aren’t dire or even noticeable, but with the mini-games it is worth mentioning that they’re spot on. Brooktown has a great look with a lot of animations, most of which crack me up and the game has the soundtrack to back up its visual splendor. Very little time is spent in menus or staring at loading screens, which I can’t praise enough.
Brooktown is tight. Konami obviously spent a good amount of time on this game, which means I’m going to as well. I could play this game till the disk is worn out and I probably would not run out of different choices. True, they do need to give you more time for interaction but I can always look forward to them taking care of that in a sequel. I’ll play it, and who knows? Maybe True Baby will go back to college after all.
Freelance review by Greg Knoll (July 22, 2007)
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