|Sprung is one of the first titles for the shiny new Nintendo DS, though it features no action sequences using the system's stylus nor does it really need both screens. And yet I found myself unwilling to stop playing. Go figure. |
Basically, Sprung is a G-rated version of those Japanese dating sims, which combine Choose Your Own Adventure sequences with nudity. Sprung has no nudity, and is in fact remarkably tame even though it deals with college-age young adults and a week of ostensibly hooking up with as many people as possible. The basic plot: You play as either Brett or Becky, who of course have been in unspoken love since childhood. Brett, Becky and their various friends all meet at a ski retreat for the aforementioned supposed debauchery. Through a series of discussions, you'll work through a slew of potential suitors on both sides before finally landing your life's love.
That's right, discussions. Unlike the bizarrely addictive DS dating game Feel the Magic: XX-XY, Sprung has no action sequences. Okay, that's not entirely true; there are some adventure-game sequences where you use certain items during the discussions to influence the outcome. But don't expect to be using the stylus to vomit goldfish or turn aside charging bulls here. Anyway, the discussions are actually fairly witty, and only once during the game did I find an impasse that got tedious. (Turns out I needed to use an item at just that juncture to continue.)
In fact, discussions are fairly elaborate. Rather than rigidly defined responses, characters are influenced both by mood and by your previous discussion choices. Facial expressions play a big part in deciding how to approach a situation, and it's actually fun to try different combinations of statement order to see what new replies they bring. Plus, some choices unlock secret mini-games which in turn provide items that may help later on.
The graphics are very clean, with a sort of cartoonish European Japanime feel, if that's possible. Of course, even the supposed geeky characters are hyper-attractive, so at times playing Sprung feels like watching a WB teen show. Because a lot of the game relies on facial expressions, they are very clearly expressed, sometimes to the point of exaggeration. Sound is also good, with some really catchy tunes that I found myself humming even when not playing.
The downside to all of this, of course, is that it feels like an experiment. It's a young-adult sex game that never really seems to involve sex; you do all the work that goes with seduction and then get shuffled off to a different situation. That's also a problem, because the plot jumps around a lot. One chapter may involve hooking up two other characters, and in the next chapter they hate each other or one of them wants to seduce you or whatever. And thanks to the true-love angle, there's really only one ending each for Brett and Becky. I mentioned the Japanese dating sims above, but those provide a modicum of free play where you can choose a partner. Here, the storyline is rigidly linear.
Also, the lack of real stylus action (you can just as easily use the keypad to scroll through your options) makes me wonder why Sprung wasn't beefed up for the DS.
Again, I was addicted to Sprung, but I also loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid. There's definitely a niche audience for this game, and I think it's a small one. That's a shame; I think the folks behind Sprung could have a great sequel if they go for a more mature rating and remember to take advantage of the DS capabilities.