Monday, January 2, 2006

Amusement Park

Genre: Bishoujo Game
Platform: DVD Player / Playstation 2 / XBox / PC (DVD-ROM)
Credits: 2004 Hirameki International Group, Inc.

Amusement Park DVD Game
Amusement Park Accessories
Amusement Park Item Shop
Cover Description:
The main character, a highly motivated and passionate manager who had served the late owner, is abruptly asked to manage an unprofitable amusement park. With new part-timers, they begin working together to bring the park back to its former glory.

(Skysenshi's comment on the description: The back cover writer should take the time to sit down and play this game before coming up with a summary. The main character is the son of the late owner. In fact, Fuka calls him "Owner" even if the subtitle says she calls him "Boss".)

Not for people with low attention span.>>> by skysenshi
Amusement Park, a story of a funfair heir out to rescue his deceased father's legacy, is the very first DVD "AnimePlay" game that I've gotten from Hirameki. It's basically marketed as an interactive digital dating novel that brings to mind a combination of Xenosaga and your favorite bishoujo game. This, however, isn't the first bishoujo game I played on my PS2. That honor belongs to Kanon. The difference between Amusement Park and Kanon is that the former loads just like a regular DVD. It begins with Federal warnings and your movie title screen, like any DVD. The title screen consists of mainly two parts: "Start New Game" and "Continue". You control the entire game using your DVD functions, such as the Play, Stop, Fast Forward etc.

And, like all DVD movies, there really isn't much to do but sit back and watch. There are no settings to tweak. If you're wondering how you're going to save your game, well, you'd be glad to know that you won't be wasting your memory card or disk space. The catch is that you will need passwords in order to mark your "save point". For old school gamers, this is like playing the original Megaman on the Family Computer (NES for USA peeps) and remembering the dots that correspond to the stages you've covered. Simply put, for an innovative method of using DVDs, Amusement Park's delivery is painfully primitive.

I have no problems with passwords. What I have problems with is the fact that it takes about an average of 5-10 chapters before the branch indicating your password would appear. In the case of Fuka's path, there were no other branches after I chose hers. The path, covering around 8-10 chapters, led directly to her ending. The other girls' routes are minced versions of Fuka's: divide 2 sub-branches into 4, and then further divide those 4 in half. The event tree branching is so poorly done that I can actually draw the entire thing with my eyes closed. Considering that Amusement Park takes about 8 hours of "adventuring," that really doesn't say much about the creative input poured into its production.

Now for the worst part: I have the attention span of a toddler, which is why I multi-task a lot of things. If I lie in bed and watch inanimate drawings of people "communicate" with each other — their dialogues defined by a bunch of text underneath the screen — you'd probably be hearing me snore within seconds. True enough, I slept through many of the routes.

Don't get me wrong. Being a bishoujo gamer, I'm used to seeing still drawings make love, complete with text-based grunts and groans. But a b-game designed for the PC offers a lot more interactivity than one designed for a DVD player. With the latter, there are no hands-free fast forward modes that can hasten the text speed or CG galleries you can peruse when you're bored with the dialogue. The best I could do is hit the R1 button as fast as I can in order to speed up the pace. And goodness, have I missed the ability to save anytime I want!

The plot doesn't salvage it either. Sure, you'd be touched by Ryoya's story during your first run. He's a man determined to save whatever's left of the amusement park he inherited from his beloved father in spite of all the tragedies that have befallen his family. You'll find out that Ryoya's family tree is as simple as this game's event tree, causing him to suffer genetically defined tragedies and all. You sympathize with the girls because they're a supposedly talented bunch, but they're about to be swept into a not-so-amusing wheel of heartbreaks. Thing is, after going through all the routes (one of the girls doesn't have a bad ending), the endings are nearly identical. The climax is the same. At every girl's third option screen, excluding Chihaya's and Fuka's, you will be faced with two choices: (1) Tell [insert girl's name here] the truth, and (2) Can't tell [insert girl's name here] the truth. Needless to say, the consequences of your choices are utterly predictable. The only thing totally not predictable there is me finishing one girl's path and getting a password for a completely different girl's CG!

After some time, you might notice that the characters tend to be two-dimensional. Of course, there are a few differences. Some girls experience supernatural incidents. Some will exhibit their talents in cooking, while others excel at designing. But there's nothing really groundbreaking. Despite all their differences, they share about 5 chapters of the exact same scene. Even the only male character there is just so inexplicably mean (I'd have fired the nitwit for insubordination) that you wonder if any thought had been put into the characterization.

In fairness, the artwork can be dreamy. Getting to know a girl also meant getting to know many different areas of the park, since they do work in different areas. The voice acting could use some work, though. The only female voices that didn't grate on my nerves were Chikane's and Nanase's. The rest are either shaky or trying too hard to be cute when their seiyuu are obviously older women.

Amusement Park is not hentai. It may have lots of fanservice that includes panty shots and characters getting themselves into compromising positions, but there's nothing here that would warrant being posted on our Hentai Directory. Unfortunately, while I was struggling to keep my eyes open, I was praying that a love scene would accidentally find its way to the screen. That would have probably jolted me awake.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 5; Characters 7; Sounds 8

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