NOTE: While the Mac Observer content management system says that I wrote this review, it was mostly written by my 17-year old son Jacob. As a junior in high school I think he has a much better handle on what high school is like, how well this simulation/game emulates the real deal, and how much fun it is to play.
Have you ever wished you could relive your high school years but make different choices and do different things? Well now you can with the new app from Electronic Arts, Surviving High School, a simulator/game that allows you to make the kinds of decisions you would make as a high schooler. Everyone knows how tough it can be to balance your social life, sports, and academics, and it is just as challenging in this game.
I should know -- I'm Dr. Mac's 17-year old son and a high school junior.
This simulator/game was surprisingly realistic and more fun than I expected. When you launch the app for the first time you have many options for your simulated high school life and choices you make in the beginning influence the course your high school career will take throughout the game. Among other options you can choose from several different characters and select the classes you will take. Regardless of your choices, you are a new student at the high school. As soon as you arrive at school you'll be approached by all types of people including a girl you can flirt with and the star varsity quarterback. You can make friends as well as enemies depending upon the choices you make.
All of the characters in the game are very realistic and behave a lot like real high school students. Some of the characters even sounded like my real friends.
After school, you have choices in which you can do including working out which helps your athleticism, since you have an opportunity to try out for the football team as a quarterback, studying which boosts your GPA, or watching TV which boosts social status.
The app features various mini games, including quizzes like this:
If you do well on the quiz your GPA will go up. That's good. Or you can choose to cut class with the popular kids, which will make you more popular but won't help your GPA one iota.
That's bad. Especially when you consider that your dad will buy you a new car if you maintain a 3.0 GPA!
Another mini game is football, which isn’t very much like real football as you can see here:
For example, you can’t select any plays on offense or defense; you may only select how many yards each play is, which gets old after a couple of series.
Every week, there is a football game and the final week there is a game against the rival school. The rival school is always trying to start fights and talk trash throughout the game. Another mini game is a word search that you must do to complete certain tasks. One task is in football practice, where you must select the words "toss" and "pass" to learn “special moves” for the games as shown below.
The word searches are not very difficult but add variety to a game that is otherwise dominated by making choices and decisions for your character.
On the weekends, you have the choice to attend parties or stay at home and study. The parties have different activities and games you can play. At one party, you can play truth or dare, play billiards, attend a bonfire, or go swimming. The amount of choices in this game gives you the freedom similar to high school. Remember, while partying on the weekends will make you more popular, studying will improve your GPA (and improve your chances of getting that new car)!
There's even a free version so you can get a taste of the game before you commit to purchasing it.
Last but not least, this game introduces an interesting way of presenting new content. Each week there is a new "episode" you can download and play for free. The most recent one, for example, is called "The Great Float Caper." Each episode is "on the air" for a week, then it is replaced by the next episode. You also have the option of buying episodes via in-game purchase for under a buck. Unlike the free episodes, which you have to play within a week before they are replaced by the next episode, these episodes are yours to keep.
Being a new student at a high school can be very hectic and stressful. In the game, if you make a mistake it is not the end of the world. And, as in real life, you can't undo the things you've done. Which is too bad because you may not always like the decisions you make in the game. Perhaps you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or lose a football game, or flunk a quiz… It would be cool if you could undo your mistakes or at least save more than one game, giving you a chance to try things a different way. But you can't do either one. It would also be nice if there were more decision-making and less dialogue -- sometimes the conversations seem to go on and on and on, with nothing for the player to do except tap the screen to advance the discussion.
The Bottom Line
Even without undo, multiple saved games, or more decision-making, I feel this app is a winner, especially if you don’t mind reading a lot of dialogue. And I have to admit that much of the dialogue is interesting and humorous, and serves to move the story along.
As an actual high school student I found Surviving High School surprisingly realistic and quite a bit more fun than I had expected when my dad asked me to review it.