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Monday, June 03, 2013

Game Review: Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble

Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble. With a title like that, how can you not play this game? And more so when it has got an 81% average rating on MetaCritic and was nominated for Best Writing on the Writer's Guild of America awards in 2009 (the game was released in 2008) So my curiosity piqued, I decided to spend a couple of weekends seeing what the fuss was about.


You pick a girl to play as, and in the introduction – which doubles as a tutorial – you start by recruiting three more girls into your gang. After that it all about talking to other people and progressing the plot. Progressing the plot involves winning minigames: Taunt, Expose, Fib and Gambit (introduced later in the game). 

Taunt is an insult-retort game similar to insult swordfighting in Monkey Island. You win if you say an insult that the other person doesn't know the retort to, or if you correctly choose a retort for their insult. The catch is that you only learn new taunts and the correct retort when they are used against you for the first time. So a part of the strategy is losing a few games by learning new taunts and retorts on side quests, so that you are better equipped on the main quest.

Expose is a word game where you are given the thoughts of the person you are talking to, but every word is covered. You can uncover a certain number of words. After that you have to guess the remaining words from the context by selecting from six choices for each word.

Fib is a mostly luck based game, a cross between poker and bluff. You win if you either have a better hand, or you successfully bluff and call on the opponents bluff.

Gambit is a slightly complex variation on rock-paper-scissors.

Gameplay basically involves playing the minigames against people you meet in order to get information needed to progress the plot. At first it is quite repetitive as the story starts slow and you tend to lose a lot of the games, but as you go on the games generally get easier and story gets more involved. So even though you're basically playing the same minigames over and over again, it is not as annoying as it is while starting out.


That brings us to the story, which is really the main part of the game. The story in this game is top notch, and I can see why it got a Writer's Guild of America nomination for writing. There is a *lot* of dialog, but it is well written, so even those who don't like reading much might enjoy the game. You start out slowly, investigating a series of small accidents in the high school, but before long you're exploring justice, society, marriage, power and corruption. 

The overall theme is based on feminist movements in 1920s America, with your gang of girls rebelling against a male dominated and conformist society. The characters are all interesting, and have reasons for behaving the way they do. As you learn more your views on each of the characters also change. Sometimes the person you thought was the villain turns out to be the victim, or vice versa. In the end, every person has their own reasons and none of the characters are black and white.

Although the themes are serious, the story itself is light hearted for the most part, until the end when it gets quite weird and dark. 

If you like a good story-driven game,  then you should give DHSGiT a try.