Look to the Future, Blast to the Past
Have you ever thought about what you want to be when you grow up? Have you yet considered what you’re going to do after you graduate from high school? Of course you have. It’s not like you had any choice in the matter. And chances are, you’ve already gone through that process. But now…you can go through it all again, with Life Quest! Doesn’t that sound exciting?
A Charming Look
First things first, Life Quest looks good. The art direction is colorful, playful, and full of personality, and the backgrounds and menus make use of “atmospheric” animation to make sure you don’t get bored looking at them. This extends to your in-game avatar, of whom you get to design by selecting from a number of preset faces, poses, hair styles, and clothes. There are a lot of options available at the start, and it’s easy to make a distinct-looking characters this way, which is always fun.
Sadly, the same can’t quite be said about all of the sound. The sound effects are serviceable; they perform their functions adequately, and avoid being annoying. The same could be said for the music, which is spunky and energetic, but it has one problem; there’s only one song! It could easily be ignored at the beginning of the game, but hearing it loop over and over again after several hours can be grating after a while.
The voice acting, meanwhile, is pretty bad all around. There’s not a lot of it, thankfully, just in the form of your in-game big sister, who shows you the ropes. Her tutorials may indeed be necessary to learning the ins and outs of Life Quest, and it certainly does a good job at that, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to claw your ears out after having to put up with her voice.
The Journey Through Life Should be Fun…Right?
Life Quest blends together elements of time management games like Diner Dash, with life simulators such as The Sims. Like the latter, your character has a number of timely needs to meet, including eating, sleeping and paying bills, as well as attributes to improve over time, including Charm, Practicality and Intelligence. And like time management games, you only have a limited amount of time every day to accomplish everything you need.
True to the name, a big part of Life Quest is about guiding your avatar through the trials and tribulations of life, notably by pursuing a career. The most impressive thing about the game is the absolute number of ways you can go about this. You can join the work force and work your way up from the bottom, or attend classes at any of the local colleges to make you more qualified for the better jobs. In truth, you’ll probably be doing a mix of both; classes cost money, and you’ve got to pay the rent and buy food after all.
Regardless, there are a lot of options in both aspects of the game. Jobs and classes have different pre-requisites to meet, multiple “paths” to follow, and different effects on your character’s attributes. The full list of jobs and classes is absolutely staggering, and if you want to work your way up to a dream job, it’s going to take a long time, and a fair amount of planning. It can be almost intimidating, just like real life, but that can make the journey all that much sweeter.
But That’s Not Our Ultimate Goal
Unfortunately, Life Quest doesn’t really fully live up to its name. Because rather than actually guide your character down a chosen career path, what you’ll really be doing most of the time is competing against your rival classmates. They’re just like you, trying to get by, and doing what they can to keep their spirits up. And every time you hear from one, telling you about his or her upcoming plans, it becomes your immediate goal to accomplish the exact same thing they’re setting out to do before them. If someone is setting out to buy a pet dog, a new car, a big screen TV, and relax a bit at home, then that’s what you have to do…for some reason.
On the plus side, this does help to give a sense of direction to the game, especially if you’re the type to get overwhelmed when faced with so many options. It also, presumably, gives you a reason to want to study and work efficiently, by having you race against the clock to reach any number of goals. Regardless, this isn’t exactly what the game presents itself as, and kind of wrecks the whole simulation aspect of it.
Even worse, however, is the fact that it’s not all that challenging. Though the overall goals you’re forced to meet with each prospective rival do get more ambitious and expensive, said classmates seldom really work fast enough. But even worse than that is the fact that though the rivals are treated as race, you can’t actually lose against any of them. If the rival beats you, the game will simply just wait for you to catch up, treat you as if you won once you do, and set you up with the next rival.
Not Really Much of a Life to Find Here
In truth, Life Quest feels so…dishonest. It’s less about your character’s career, and more about beating your petty rivals, but even that amounts to nothing, and the pressure the game tries to put on you is nonexistent. There’s really no way to lose, fall behind, or face difficulty, which just goes against the entire principle of time management games! There’s not even a scoring system available to at least judge you’re your performance.
Now, when you finally do get through all of the rivals, you unlock free play mode, and are free to do whatever you want in the game from then on out. You can continue studying, working your way up the corporate ladder, date other people, marry, have kids, and buy vehicles, clothes and furniture. But you’re not under any real time limit, since unlike The Sims, you don’t really age in Life Quest. Heck, failing to meet your daily needs doesn’t really have a negative effect on you, aside from how much time you have on hand each day. Failure to pay your bills is similarly forgiving, with the money you owe simply coming out of your salary. There’s no homelessness, starvation or illness in the world of Life Quest, that’s for darn sure.
So What Has It Made of Itself?
Now, don’t take it the wrong way; Life Quest’s simple mechanics make it easy to get into, and hard to quit. It’s just that it could be doing things a whole lot better. It’s a time management game without any required management thanks to the lack of deadlines. It’s a shallow life simulator. It doesn’t get the theme it presents right. And it’s kind of lacking in replay value.
Life Quest could have been something interesting, but as it is, there are better games out there that are probably more worthy of your time.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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