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Sim: Kisses [by DigiPen]

Game Review:  Kisses
Release: 2004
Genre: Simulation
Developer: DigiPen
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2000/XP, GeForce 3
Players: 1
Price: Freeware
Version Reviewed: 1.0

I am Nukbanwam, which means “has many friends” in the tongue of the northern people. Well, it actually means something along the lines of “get a life”, but I digress. Working a lifetime to achieve my status, in our village of four women and four men, I have become a lover to all the women, and a close friend to all the men. I can now rest in peace, and to my four sons, I shall bequeath my Soft Bed, my Brick Fireplace, my Large Shelf, and my Flaming Fuzzy Suit of Irresistible Appeal.

Kisses is an innovative social game coming from DigiPen, or rather, a group of DigiPen graduates. DigiPen, along with Full Sail and several others, are actual universities where you can study game design and development. Tuition there culminates in a development project for teams of seniors – making a small but complete game, usually focusing on a particularly interesting idea one of the aspiring game designers thought up.

It shows that DigiPen, being pretty much the Harvard or Yale among the game design academies, is the origin of Kisses, because sound, graphics, and the game engine satisfy very high standards of quality.

Kisses is about social interaction in a small Eskimo village of eight igloos, an ice fishing hut, a small forest, and a snow mine. Four male and four female characters live in the village, and one of them is you. Daily life is simple, in the early morning, everybody gets up to mine packed snow to melt and drink, gather wood to build a strong fire with, and catch fish to cook and eat. Everybody possesses four basic items: A shelf to store wood, food and snow, a bed, a fireplace, and a fuzzy suit to keep warm in stormy weather. Your furniture is usually rather small and primitive at the beginning of the game, but by socializing and befriending others, you can earn benefits (small red hearts) that will cause your possessions to be upgraded. For example, you could get a larger shelf that you can use to store more food and drink in, which means you can socialize for more days in a row before having to go out and work again. Or you might get a better fireplace, which will improve the quality of the food you’re preparing. Food quality is also influenced by the type of fish, wood or snow you gathered, but a good fireplace can make up for less than perfect ingredients.

The better your food and drink is, the less frequently your needs show, because if you are overly hungry, cold, or thirsty, your alter ego will make a sad face and be less attractive. It‘s actually a good idea to stay away from people until after dinner.

People who see you will react accordingly – if you’re well fed, you’re “a cutie” and will subsequently earn lots of compliments, while being a cold, sick individual is considered disgusting and will cause people to insult and avoid you.

Every day, you need to plan ahead, as the game is unforgiving – if you overexert yourself, you will pass out, which is both extremely embarrassing and repulsive in the eyes of the other villagers. You need to gather resources, sleep, and then prepare a (hopefully fancy) meal before you go out to make friends with others.

Right clicking on passers-by will present a menu that includes waving, complimenting, blow-kissing, flirting, insults, and other actions you can perform – and depending on how good your relations are, they will either be thankful or annoyed. Trying to Eskimo kiss a total stranger is a bad idea, they’ll say “Yeah right” and “You’re disgusting” and tell others about the freak they just met.

After a long time of experimenting, you’ll eventually find the perfect rhythm that will allow you to make the most out of your days and resources, and will ultimately earn you many friends and benefits.

Graphics: 10
Really cute characters combined with state-of-the-art technology, such as pixel shaders and specular lighting, and a small but pretty village to explore – the graphics are very good. The villagers’ faces will even show how dire their needs are, and the beautiful day-night-cycle and constantly changing weather make the game seem very alive. The menus are functional and self-explanatory; hints and tool tips are easy to read.

Sound: 8
The music is quiet and nice, and changes several times during the course of a day. That’s a nice feature, because you won’t have to check the quickly advancing in-game clock all the time – the light level, shadows and music will tell you roughly what time of the day it is and what the other villagers might be doing at the moment. The sound effects are good, as well.

Game Play: 6
After a thorough, but misleading tutorial – it took me ages to find out that saying hello, hugging and then Eskimo kissing is wrong, and that a real kiss is less intimate than an Eskimo kiss – you will play a game that, at times, is a real challenge, because especially in the early stages, you’ll be gathering wood, snow, and fish every other day, when you’re lucky, and each and every day when you’re not. Your character is easily exhausted because you have a very cheap bed and will often pass out in public, spoiling all your efforts to make friends.

Eventually, though, you will find a better way to organize things and exploit your fellow villagers’ affections – just stand on the path leading to the forest when you know a girl that fancies you is gathering wood there – chances are that she’ll give it to you.

Value: 5
There’s only one (randomized) village where you can dwell and flirt, and this reduces Kisses’ replay value significantly. Once you’ve earned all the benefits, you can only try to keep everybody’s love, and continue a daily routine of gathering resources, and presenting yourself in public with your fancy suit and bright smile.

Concept: 8
The game idea is great! Kisses could have been competing with games such as Singles or even The Sims. But it’s not, because it has some noticeable flaws, besides being very short. Gathering snow and fish is a real chore and not fun at all, since the interface requires you to click the mouse over and over again, every day. Click, click, take wood from shelf. Click, click, burn wood. Click, click, take snow from shelf. Click, click, melt snow. Click, click, drink snow. And you haven’t even eaten anything yet! Sometimes your name tag is in the way and you can’t access your shelf without moving around a little – even more mouse clicks!

Fun: 6
Playing Kisses is not as easy as it seems, and can be very confusing at first – the short manual leaves many questions unanswered, like the following: Is pine wood better than fir wood? Is acid snow better than yellow snow (not kidding you here, you can melt and drink yellow snow in Kisses!). But towards the end, it becomes entertaining, when funny things happen – like you sitting in your igloo waiting for the time and the bad weather to pass, hoping that Stephanie will pay you a visit – and instead, Victor, her ex-boyfriend, comes in and starts to insult you and push you around, forcing you to run out into the blizzard and into Stephanie’s igloo – only to pass out there, grossing her out!

Overall: 7
It is obvious that Kisses was initially some concept game or graduation project of a developer academy – a great idea and nicely executed. With a little more substance and variety it could have been such a wonderful game. A little more love is what Kisses needed.
Added: February 21st 2005
Reviewer: Moritz Voss
Hits: 8164
Language: english


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