Do you remember your senior year in high school? I know I do.
Brooktown High (Konami for PSP) is a dating simulation game, or date-sim for short. These games are very popular in Japan but have never been able to break into the American market. Will Brooktown High be the one? That is up to you to decide. Hopefully this review will give you enough information to decide if the game is a good fit for you.
Brooktown High is a game that puts you back in your senior year at high school. You can play as either a boy or a girl and you will be interacting with 20 unique individuals. Well, unique might be a stretch as they appear to be the cast of a stereotypical Hollywood teen movie.
This is Rage. He is your typical “fight the power” rebel who plays in a band and rides a skateboard.
That is not all there is to Rage. Once you get to know him you also find out that he writes poetry and is super smart. He only gets bad grades because he wants to “fight the man” and turn society around.
He is a little bit misguided in that he believes that the student government should be burned down and replaced with bread lines, but weren’t we all a little bit naive in high school?
You will also meet up with Biscuit the volleyball player, Meena the super smart (and super hot) foreign exchange student, Elektra the goth girl and numerous others. Each one fills a particular stereotypical niche. Like Rage, each one does have an inner core to them that is not always obvious based on their exterior.
It’s characters such as Rage that make the game fun to play. Notice I said fun? That is the key word here, read on to find out why.
You begin the game as a new student, fresh from the fields of Ohio. No one really knows where Brooktown is but the weather is always nice so I’m going to place it in Southern California. During the short character creation process you choose to be a girl or a guy and answer a few questions. The answers you give will be used to set your starting characteristics.
After that you have a chance to name your character and set some basic features such as hair and eye color, facial expression and height and weight. Once you are done with this you are dropped into your room in your underwear. It’s now up to you to dress yourself and get to school.
Brooktown is not exactly your typical high school though. There are only four classes being taught and each class is tied to a specific in-game attribute.
- P.E. - Athletics
- French - Charm
- Physics - Smarts
- Art - Originality
Strangely enough, at Brooktown you only attend (or focus) on one class per week. This means that if you go to Art class your originality will improve (based on your grade) but your other scores will suffer. This can be partly rectified by going to an after school club, of which there are four and each is tied to a class.
On Friday you get a progress report as shown above. Aside from going to classes and clubs you also have the ability to work on your studies on the weekend but I’ll get into that again later.
You are probably wondering where the date fits into this date-sim. Sit down, read on and I will fill you in.
Talking to the other kids
Before school starts on Monday you have a short bit of time to socialize and meet your fellow classmates. Due to the strange way time works in Brooktown you will likely only get to talk to three or four people before morning bell rings and you scurry off to class, avoiding the robotic hall monitor. If he catches you it’s off to detention and you gain no benefit from being in school that week.
Here we have the campus grounds outside of the school. Notice all of the cool kids walking around? It’s up to you to pick a few and talk to them.
Talking to the other kids at school is straight up multiple choice. Most of the options are obvious but you will occasionally find yourself in what is known as the “dis or kiss” situation. This happens when the two options you have are to either dis the girl (will cost you relationship points and confidence) or ask her out (will likely cause your girlfriend to dump you for even more damage). It would be nice if there were some sort of cancel button but there is not.
Some of these kids will judge you based on your clothing. Some will snub you while others will warm up to you. If someone says to you, “nice boots” then it is a fair bet that they like your boots but something else you are wearing is not to their liking. As you talk to them you will learn “tidbits” of information and you will also be asked to do favors.
Doing favors is a great way to earn confidence, popularity and possibly ultra-cools. What are these things you ask?
Confidence - a measure of how confident in yourself you are. There is a confidence meter on the side of the screen. When you do well in conversations you will earn points. Make mistakes and you will lose points.
Popularity - a measure of how others see you. You gain popularity by making friends. You also lose popularity by making enemies. How do you make enemies? One sure fire way is to cheat on your girlfriend! Just like in real life girls don’t like that and the more they love you before the more they will hate you after!
Ultra-cools - as your confidence goes up you will begin to earn these. You use them with the Right button and the cause all those around you to suddenly think you are the coolest person in school. It has the effect of making your confidence and popularity meters max out for a single encounter.
After a while you are going to want to ask someone out on a date. There are several locations to take them but you need to think about who you are going to go out with and where they would want to go. You also need to pick a Saturday for the big date.
Don’t be alarmed if you have trouble setting up dates early on. If the person is interested in you and you name someplace they do not want to go they will suggest an alternative place, same goes for the time.
Each dating zone also has a bonus area which you can access if the person you are dating really likes you. If you play your cards right on the beach you might be invited to go to the cave. If you get to a bonus area it is very likely that you will be able to get a kiss, well unless you really mess things up.
You don’t see the characters kiss though. For some reason the game cuts to some live action footage of oil rigs, crashing waves and champaign being popped.
After a few dates you will learn more about the person you are dating and you will reach a point where you either want to let them down easy or stick with them. Since you can’t take someone to the same place twice you will reach a point where they tell you that they have been grounded by their parents or are too busy to see you. This may or may not be a reflection on you, more than likely you have simply taken them to all the date spots that they want to go to.
It is at this point when you can either dump them and play the field or stick with them and use your weekends to work on your studies to get into college. If you don’t keep your grades up there is the chance your parents will ground you!
By spending some time on the weekend taking time to your studies you can avoid being grounded and possibly even acquire some free money from your parents for doing so good.
Weekends in your room
Aside from dating and school a lot of action occurs in your room. This is where you buy new outfits, apply for college, pick a club or after school job (can’t do both), make phone calls, play mini-games and do your homework.
- There are three mini-games in your room.
- 21 Knickers - strip blackjack (if you can believe that) which can help boost your smarts and originality.
- Boogietron 5000 - DDR, or at least a PSP version of it that can boost your athletics and originality. The same game pops up at the big dances.
- Tongue Twister - I avoided this one.
I did not dabble much with the mini-games and instead focused on keeping my grades up and getting dates!
Once you’ve run out of places to take your girlfriend the game enters into a bit of a grind. Either you dump her and date some other girls or you study all weekend and pick a class to go to.
You can’t talk to the other girls anymore because now that you are popular and confident every girl in school wants to date you!
That’s right, you stumble upon the “dis or kiss” problem everywhere you turn! This is why the game becomes a grind. See, every time you talk to someone the conversation that takes place depends on the level of your relationship. If you don’t progress with the person you will find yourself reading the same lines form them over and over again. This is especially bad when calling your girlfriend after the the dating cycle has ended.
Instead of risking your relationship you might as well go into full-time study mode and only talk to the guys on campus. It’s just safer this way.
After you’ve played through the school year you will have applied and possibly been accepted to a college. You have amassed a lot of popularity and confidence and it’s now time to go to the prom.
The prom plays out like all of the previous dances and dates but it has a kicker. This is your big chance to “score” err… watch another video of oil rigs and crashing waves.
After the prom you get a quick story about how your life turned out up and until your 20 year high school reunion. It’s fun to read this portion and if you did well with one of the girls you will probably end up married to them with kids.
Now that I have told you the good things about the game I need to tell you some of the bad things about this game.
- The Bad
- Slow load times - This game takes several seconds to go between screens. The load times are horrible and can detract from the gameplay if you game on a limited time budget.
- Repeated conversations - If you do not progress in a relationship with someone you get the same conversation whenever you talk to them.
- No cancel button - Sometimes you talk to the wrong person in the morning. This can really mess up your limited talk time time before classes start. If only you could cancel a conversation and get those minutes back!
- Hard to target in a group - If the characters are in a group the focus (who you will interact with) can change very fast. It gets very annoying if you try to talk to Bethany and suddenly the focus changes to Dougie before you press the talk button.
- Not so obvious options - Like the “dis or kiss” problem you will sometimes find yourself with multiple choice options that do not clearly say anything or otherwise confuse you as to which one best fits the conversation. Sometimes all of the options are bad and you just have to pick the lesser of them all.
- Only one save game - You only get one save file on this game, need I say more?
I found Brooktown High to be a fun game to play. I have played it twice so far and once you get to know each character each replay gets a little bit easier.
With multiple choices during character creation you have the replay bonus in that you can pick a designated girlfriend when you start the game and try to complete it with her as your prom date. There is the problem of having to go through the same conversations and favors as you have had through each previous playing of the game but the dating area conversations should all be new to you.
You can play through the game in a couple of hours and the game is a fun look down memory lane. In fact, let me tell you about my first game…
I decided to set it so I was playing my scrawny emo self way back during my senior year. I made sure to have a character with high smarts and originality but almost no charm or athletic ability. After playing through the year the game took on a scary feel as my prom date left me for another woman. I say scary because something similar happened to me while a senior in high school!
The second play I did using the knowledge my older self has acquired. The first half of the year I spent with Starbright before dumping her after the first dance to hook up with Jody. My character later married Jody and we had 5 kids in time for the reunion.
Will you like the game? I do not know. I know I consider it to be a guilty pleasure and I will likely play it more in the future.
Check out the trailer in quicktime format below!