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Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Barking Lizards
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Family/ Themed/ Platformer

Graphics & Sound:

Not only is Britney's sister doing a better job managing her PR, but she managed to get her name on a better game than was ever attached to Britney. Zoey 101 makes its first appearance on DS with Field Trip Fiasco and the end result doesn't suck. The graphics are decent for DS, which is to say "not great." It appears that the designers are doing the best they can, but a quick comparison with any top-shelf titles - especially first party games - shows an extreme gap. A licensed game usually has cut-scenes and stills to offset any less-than-stellar, pixelicious character models. Field Trip Fiasco could exist quite nicely without Zoey 101 due to these blocky characters and nondescript locations. If your suspension of disbelief is strong, you won't have any trouble projecting your favorite characters from the show into this game, but no disbelief will be suspended on the basis of these graphics.

The sound design in the game is no much more inventive. There are some themes that pop up in relation to action happening on the screen and these changes are welcome. The world you have to explore is very limited so it's nice to have any change, albeit subtle. There isn't any spoken dialogue, but there are a few good sound effects from time to time. If the graphics are not great, the sound probably earns a solid "not bad."


Gameplay:

Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco is pitched as the adventures of our favorite PCA gang during a school trip gone awry. A bit of an outdoor boondoggle certainly has made for a few other good games, so we approached this one with an open mind. Imagine our surprise when the majority of the game turns out to be a mindless treasure hunt within the halls of PCA. There are so many things to do in preparation for this field trip, but none of them feel particularly important or earth-shaking. But do they make for a good game experience?

The majority of tasks to be completed in the early part of the game involve talking to some character and being sent on some errand. The errand usually involves talking to other characters to gather items they have for the original character. At times, you'll be asked to do something slightly more physical and actually feel like you are playing a game. The game content that looks like running around the halls of PCA over and over again isn't very satisfying. The biggest blah factor is that each quasi mini-game runs in sequence, so there isn't even the satisfaction of carrying multiple quests or completing them out of sequence. The biggest frustration is that the target audience is likely to find some of these tasks daunting. Each task or sequence of tasks is timed and if the timer runs out, you have to start over. The time limits imposed are actually pretty strict. The characters usually want some item or items and you then run all over PCA to find the items. Some characters want you to perform a task and some tasks lead to other tasks. It sounds more interesting on paper than it actually is in the game. While it only takes you a minute to read, it will take what feels like hours to play through the PCA sequence and actually get that durn field trip started.


Difficulty:

The tight time limit on tasks mentioned before is the pits. Difficulty in a game shouldn't just be a function of time. It feels like the developers took tasks that were otherwise easy and dialed up the difficulty by imposing a specific time limit. It isn't that the time limits are totally wrong, but they should be staged to accommodate players of different ability. Many games have gone to the bronze-silver-gold ranking system to reward players for quick performance, but still allow less skilled players to cross the threshold. Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco knocks out a portion of its potential audience and creates frustation instead of a spirit of challenge.

Game Mechanics:

Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco uses touch to control navigation as an option, but it ends up being the quickest way to get around. Talking to characters or picking up items is as easy as tapping the screen. There are some persistent screens that show inventory, maps, and objectives. These screens auto-hide to preserve screen real estate. For tasks in progress, you'll see a running list of the things you need and the number of each items required. The hints or progress updates are not very good so you'll have to have a good memory to complete some of the tasks. Whatever you do, don't set this down and expect to come back to it in a week knowing what is going on... There isn't any great way to see where a new task may have opened up, so you'll spend lots of time exploring PCA. The entire game can be played on the touch-screen and there is no need to save since the autosave kicks in after you complete a task. Some variety in control options and in using the other buttons on the DS as part of challenges or tasks would have been cool.

Lots of things would have been cool if added to Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco. Since none of them made it in the stew, we're left with a fairly lackluster licensed game. It is playable and if a person really loved Zoey 101, it could be that person's idea of a good time. Unless you have a wallet-size of Zoey 101, you should really rethink investing in this title. It's the kind of thing that you'll probably get frustrated with and stop playing. If you do finish it, you'll wonder why you bothered.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Nintendo Wii Spider-Man: Friend or Foe Windows Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

 
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