Our Life Quest review describes what happens when you mix a life sim with a time management game and tons of options!
If you took a life simulation, a la The Sims, and dropped it into a blender with a copy of a time management game, such as Diner Dash, you'd end up with Life Quest, the latest from Big Fish Games that proves to be a charming (but not challenging) digital diversion for your mouse-clicking finger.
The game begins with a warm welcome from your high-school principal, who congratulates you on your recent graduation. But he asks you, "now what?" And this is what the game is all about. You can go to college and train for a particular job or you might consider joining the workforce and climbing your way up the ladder. In all likelihood, you'll consider both -- but what you study and where you work is entirely up to you.
After you've customized your male or female character by selecting from a number of attributes -- skin color, hair style, clothing, and so on -- Life Quest presents you with a city populated by a number of buildings, some of which are unlocked to start. This includes universities (to choose a career path), a city center (to look for employment), rental and buying properties, as well as restaurants, clothing stores, electronics and furniture shops, pet stores, and a lot more. Simply click where you want to go.
As with time management games, the game is divided into individual days in which you'll need to make some money to afford a place to live and buy some cool items for your space. But not unlike a life simulation, you'll also need to eat, sleep and stay happy in order to progress.
Much of the gameplay comes in the form of challenges against your former classmates. You'll meet 19 people, each with their own unique personality and look, and while it sounds catty, you must accomplish their goals before they do. This was a little odd to me at first as it seems like one day you're trying to buy a house instead of rent -- just because someone else had this goal in mind -- while another day you must switch priorities and eat at a fancy restaurant or buy a dog or spend money at eight different locations in the city.
For example, Vijay, a football fan who is excited about the upcoming "uber-bowl," says he wants to buy a giant HDTV for the big game, so you must do it first. But when you travel to the Sparks electronics store, you realize the largest TV is $1200, speakers are $100 and up and a cable box is $80. Better work your tush off at a job to save up enough cash before Vijay can do the same. At the end of each day you'll see a progress bar against your "rival," until you defeat them. Oddly, when you lose a challenge, the rival is still seen on the progress bar at the end of each day and then you're still declared the winner when you meet the goals. Strange.
But the best part of Life Quest is choosing from the vast (and we mean vast) selection of options, whether you're looking for a job from dozens of employment opportunities (and you need to be qualified to accept it, of course), trying to figure out what to eat (depending on your budget), deciding on clothing items for sale at the local boutique (watch for sales!) or what groceries to buy for your home (and yes, you need to the right appliances for specific foods). You get the idea. You can also improve yourself, by upgrading your time, intelligence, practicality and charm (with the latter, for example, you can get a job as a shmoozing bartender).
While Big Fish Games is advertizing the hidden object game (HOG) element, it really doesn't factor into the gameplay much. Basically, you will be notified at times if there is a hidden garden gnome hiding in one of the 20 locations you're in and if you can find and click him, you'll get some extra cash. That's about it, though.
Along with the aforementioned shortcomings, another issue with Life Quest is it focuses so heavily on the competition against classmates that I didn't feel like there was any overall goal for yourself -- that is, what you want to do with your life? -- until you unlock the "free play" portion of the game and choose a career or academic path.
Also, many of the rivals can be toppled very quickly, so perhaps the developers could've layered more challenging tasks with each successive rival. Why is the 14th rival just as easy to defeat as the third? And hey, if you don't remember to pay your rent, it's just taken off your salary, so why bother paying it?
Overall, though, Life Quest is a triumphant combination of multiple genres, wrapped in a great-looking game that drips with personality. If Big Fish Games could address some of these issues they might just have a new and successful casual game franchise on their hands.
- Fun and accessible life simulation with time management spin. Loads of options, customization and choices. Attractive graphics. "Free play" offered after main game is completed.
- Limited replayability (and only one game mode). If lose mission, you still "win" against rival. Some challenges too easy and short. Don't get a sense of overall "life goal." Annoying voice talent (especially your "big sis").