Review: Let's get dangerous!
The name definitely grabs your attention: Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!. It sounds like late-night television, a drive-in movie, or even an old pulp novel. This last one is closest to the truth, since the game takes place in the Twenties and combines a mystery plot with the everyday life of a group of boarding-school girls. It's up to the player to build a team of dangerous girls, investigate strange goings-on, and set things right through a mix of strategy and mini-games that will challenge you while telling you a ?page turner? of a story.
Things are going wrong at Daniel Gerard Ross High School, the boarding school you and your girls inhabit. First, you witness a mysterious man and an unexplained fire at night in the school cafeteria. Then, strange and dangerous accidents start occurring around the school. Are they linked? Is there someone behind the accidents? It's up to you to find out. To unravel the mystery, you and your girls explore the school classrooms and grounds, visiting people along the way. Metallic icons reminiscent of Monopoly pieces mark places you'll find people you can interact with. Usually, when you click on an icon, you'll face a short mini-game that you'll have to win before you can win a prize or unlock a conversation. Some of them help you uncover the mystery, while others introduce short sub-plots that let you get to know the girls and the school better. The sub-plots can generally be resolved in a few moves and involve anything from facilitating a romance to helping a hypochondriac pharmacist. Although they're pretty short and to the point, the sub-plots are clever and engaging. It's up to you how many you choose to pursue, but it's definitely worthwhile to take on a few, since beating their challenges are a way to build up your team's stats and make other challenges easier. The sub-plots also add a bit of replay value, since you'll probably want to do another play-through or two to try and find other storylines.
The mini-games are the core of the gameplay here, since they're the way you win challenges to build your team, find boyfriends, and uncover clues in the mystery plot. The Flirt mini-game lets your girl win a boyfriend by matching symbols to guess what he likes. The Fib mini-game, on the other hand, can get you out of trouble on occasion. It resembles bidding in contract bridge, except that you look at your cards and bid poker hands: two pair, three of a kind, full house, etc. You can fib and push up your bid, but if your opponent calls, you'll be caught and lose the game. Other games are based on word play and strategy, but each relies on one of your girls' statistics: Popularity, Rebellion, Glamour, and Savvy. The higher the girl's stats, the better your chance of winning the mini-game. Since it's up to you who plays a game (and sometimes, which game they'll play), having a full team comes in handy here. Mini-game challenges can be risky, since losing a challenge can mean losing a teammate temporarily, or sometimes, permanently. This system means that the most important sub-plot is probably your girls' search for boyfriends. Each of the four girls in your team can win a boyfriend, and if a girl loses a challenge, the boyfriend gets booted instead of the girl.
Winning the mini-games can earn you prizes such as temporary stat boosts or items that come in handy elsewhere in the game. Sometimes, a victory will win you a conversation with a key character, allowing you to uncover a little more of the mystery. The conversations are a high point of the game, as would be expected for a game nominated for Best Writing in a Videogame by the Writers Guild of America. The writing is smart and lively, and the system generally gives you the choice of a few lines to choose from to help guide the conversation in the direction you want. It's similar to the standard branching conversation system you'll find in a lot of RPGs, but unlike a lot of games, the pacing is quick and the choices are interesting.
Also setting the mood alongside the conversations are some great music choices and good illustrations. The music is based around some fun period songs that you'll enjoy hearing and which overshadow some of the lackluster sound effects associated with the mini-games and other events. The game's look is likewise very good as it mimics the style of a vintage board game. You look down on a board complete with play pieces and rooms that suggest classic games like Clue. The menu screen completes the illusion by presenting the game's box, including worn corners and a name on the edges. The character illustrations is one of the rare places where the visuals occasionally stumble. Some of the sketches are a bit awkward and don't live up to the rest of the game. Still, these few missteps don't take away from the overall experience.