Most games are easy to describe based on what has come before – "this time management game is a lot like Cake Mania," or "this card game is like Jewel Quest meets solitaire." Not so with Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!, which is quite simply one of the most fiercely creative concepts for a game we’ve ever seen.
DHSGiT is set during the 1920s in Brigiton, the kind of oppressively small town where everyone knows everyone else’s businesses and no one likes outsiders much. When the town starts to experience a series of bizarre accidents, it’s up to you and your gang of sassy high school girls to investigate. That’s the overly shallow summary. In reality, the game’s plot is much, much deeper than that; one that touches on some very thought-provoking social themes.
You’ll start by choosing the girl you want to be your leader, and will then roam the halls of the high school to recruit the other three members of your gang. Over the course of the game, several girls may leave and join the gang, and each has strengths and weaknesses in four areas: Popularity, Savvy, Rebellion and Glamor.
Locations in DHSGiT are laid out like stylized game boards, but one that you can move freely through without having to roll dice. Places and people that you can interact with are indicated by silver playing pieces.
Some of the people you encounter will allow you to "parlay" with them, but others will be hiding secrets, valuable information or access to an important area. You’ll need to "defeat" these folks through a series of games with titles like Taunt, Fib, Expose and Gambit, that can best be described as social warfare. In Taunt, for example, the goal here is to launch verbal attacks at your opponent, and successfully rebuff your opponent’s attacks. Your opponent might say "You have the perfect personality – for charming snakes," whereupon you need to retaliate by selecting the correct snappy comeback from the list ("Don’t worry. I would never want to charm you.")
You can do other things besides chat. Some characters will give you items that can come in handy, like a key that can be used to unlock a classroom after hours. If one of your girls successfully flirts with a boy (via another mini-game), he’ll hang around her, boosting her stats and sacrificing himself when she loses the next game.
As it turns out, high school girls in the 1920s got into about as much trouble as they do nowadays – they just do it with flapper-style flair and scratchy swing music playing in the background. The game does a superb job of immersing you in the Roaring ’20s, and the biggest treat of all is the irreverent dialogue. This isn’t one of those games that you can just click through on your way to the next puzzle. Each sentence is dripping with wit, and – parents be warned – healthy doses of innuendo. ("I lost my cigarette lighter. If I don’t find it, I’ll have to ask a boy for a match. Who knows what he’ll want in return!" or "Myrtle is an ignorant amateur at the art of passion. Why, last summer in India, I satisfied a Raja, while remaining full flowered.")
My biggest issue with the game was navigation. The four game board locations feel a bit claustrophobic and I would have liked a zoom-out feature where I could see the whole board instead of having to scroll around its different sections. People might find a few of the games hard to wrap their heads around – I’m still not sure I fully understand how to win at Gambit, and it might have been nice to be able to see who exactly is at each location instead of just seeing a playing piece – especially for the Boys that turn up over and over again.
More than a few of the 60 characters in the game seem a little unhinged, and you’ll find yourself wondering what kind of creative and eccentric mind came up with such unique content. That sentiment about sums up Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble! The nitpicking negatives pale in comparison to the delightful quirkiness of the whole experience. With multiple endings, optional scenarios, and at least 15 hours of gameplay to complete the story the first time, you’ll have plenty to sink your teeth into.