Overall Score 72%
Lisa's Love Notes
It's a big change in lifestyle for Lisa. She's left home to go to college, and that means hard work both on her studies and to earn a living. To complicate things further, her roommate Julia has just recruited her as a replacement singer in her band. Making things even more complicated, a number of guys seem to be interested in her - if she can maintain a social life. With exams and gigs looming, can Lisa keep her life together?
Lisa's Love Notes sees you managing Lisa's life as she struggles to balance money, studies and stress along with band practice. Every day you have three slots to fill - morning, afternoon and evening - and you can choose from a range of items to fill these slots. You'll need to attend classes to keep your grades up, go to work to earn cash and get plenty of practice in with the band. But watch those stress levels! If Lisa doesn't get to unwind now and again, she'll quit college - game over. If she gets into debt too much, her landlord will throw her out - game over. You'll need to work hard to keep everything together.
The controls are very simple - just tap on options, and select your schedule for each day by dragging the things you want to do into the relevant slots. Note that band recitals and exams are fixed and you have no choice on those. Beware - everything you do will have an impact on your various stats. For instance, a trip to the theatre will reduce your stress and even boost your drama studies, but it'll cost you money. Occasionally you'll meet up with one of a number of friends at the various locations you visit in your schedule, and you may have to give a response to something they say - pick the right response and you'll improve your relationship with them. But which of the various boys around town is your type? Flirty, shy, broody?
Graphics are a bright, clear cartoon/manga style. Animation is minimal, usually involving characters sliding on and off screen. The scheduler is easy to read and has the various options divided into different category tabs, making it easier to find the one you want, though I really didn't need to be shown how to drag and drop appointments after the fifteenth time or so. You can see Lisa's stats from the menu, though this isn't as user friendly as it could be. And what do they mean? Money and stress are easy enough, but what grades does she need for her exams? And how do you judge your singing performance?
Sound effects are very limited, largely consisting of click sounds when you select options, but then this isn't a very sound-heavy game. There are a couple of cheerful background tunes (one for the main menu, the other for the game itself) but these are fairly short and loop continuously. There's an option to turn the sound off, which you may decide to use after a fairly short time!
The controls are very simple and the basic gameplay is easy to understand, though my first attempt at Lisa's Love Notes saw me going home from college after just a short week as she collapsed from stress! It's all left quite open ended and there are no clear instructions on what everything is actually FOR. Does band practice impact on your performance, or is it your Music grade? What grades do you need to stay in school? Are the exams on every subject or just one at a time, and if so, which? Even now I'm not actually sure whether I'm "winning". I do know there doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything at once!
You only have one saved game going at a time, but you can restart any time you like. Remember to Save your game now and again - though if it all goes badly, you can reload your last save and try again. In theory this means you can try a different strategy - perhaps you'd rather chat up Andre than Kyle? - but given that most of the game is about surviving college, I'm not sure there's a huge range of options here. Certainly so far I've been wondering if I'm missing something; I have an "is this it?" feeling, making me wonder if I've not grasped the point yet. After 32 or so days, my game came to an abrupt end - grades were average, musical ability was average, relationships never really got started. Should I have specialised in something? Did my grades simply not come up to scratch? I've no idea. And watch you don't do what I did once by getting into debt just before a day with both exams and gig - with no opportunity to earn any money, it was game over the next day.
I like the concept behind Lisa's Love Notes and I found it simple to operate. The graphics and sound are clear and professional. I just didn't get any sense of what I was supposed to be doing, and as a result it never really worked for me. Perhaps with some clearer objectives I would have enjoyed it more; instead, I felt I was just treading water. Maybe I'm simply not the target market.
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