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NDS Review - 'Zoey 101: Field Trip'

by Richard Poskozim on Nov. 8, 2008 @ 4:27 a.m. PST

Based on the Nickelodeon live-action TV series, Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco has you join Zoey and her friends on a grand field trip to Painted Rock National Park. When their trip turns into a disaster after they get separated from their guide, players will help the stranded team get rescued and make their way back to the comforts of civilization.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ
Release Date: September 11, 2007

Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco is a terrible game that shouldn't be purchased under any circumstances, even if you or a child you know loves the show. It exhibits all of the worst concepts that you can put into a game, and it can only be useful as a way to punish the worst possible offenses known to man.

Right from the outset, everything is wrong with Zoey. Not only does it have a meaningless, blithering plot and a horrible script that sounds like it was written by a roomful of bored writers on deadline, but it also suffers from clunky controls, poor touch-screen recognition and graphics that, in comparison, make the original Crash Bandicoot look as pretty as the Final Fantasy movie. Nothing about this game is done right.

The gameplay is practically non-existent, and instead of the "action/adventure" label, it would be more accurate to describe it as, "wandering around aimlessly and occasionally fetching things with little indication of where they might be." The game has no logical flow, and success often depends on sheer tenacity and the generous time limits that you're given to complete tasks. In some cases, the fact that there are time limits at all is completely nonsensical and arbitrary, but so are just about all aspects of the title.

The actual "field trip fiasco" doesn't begin until you've completed about 15 menial tasks for people around Zoey's elitist private high school, and the fiasco itself still waits to manifest until the very end, when you play a few-stylus driven mini-games and call it a game.

The major problem with this flow is that you're given almost no hints as to where you're supposed to be, and how you're supposed to find quest items for the first two-thirds of Zoey. You're left to wander around the poorly rendered school and slowly investigate every story character in the surroundings to see if they have a vital quest for you. This is the worst when you're instructed to simply "raise money" for the field trip. It turned out that I had to go to the kitchen and bake cookies for a bake sale. How anyone is supposed to think that going into a kitchen to bake cookies is the way to make money is beyond me, but it apparently made sense to the developers at the time.

To make matters worse, when you've actually found the quests, they usually involve tracking down objects in the environment that formerly had no purpose, so you're forced to rack your brains and try to figure out where pointless things, such as vending machines or yellow posters, may be and you have to do it on a deadline. Although the deadline is pretty generous, it's pretty frustrating to even have one when the last thing you need turns out to be located in the forgotten depths of the laundry room, which was the only place you didn't search in the allotted time.

And finally, there's the issue of the touch-screen. All Zoey can do is move around the screen and pick up items, so it shouldn't be a big deal to work with the touch-screen ... except for the fact that you're constantly under time constraints and Zoey forgets how to run when she gets close to the edge of the screen. You'd think it might be faster to just hold down the run button and use the control pad, but you'd be wrong because you can only use inventory items via the stylus controls, by dragging them out of her backpack and onto the icon of whatever it goes to. This means that most of the game is spent fumbling to retrieve the DS' stylus from its holster, and you lose just as many precious seconds doing that.

The other problem with the stylus is in the mini-games Zoey occasionally gets involved in. Every once in a while, arrows will pop up on-screen to indicate a general motion that should be performed by stylus. Unfortunately, the game can never quite decide if it wants you to draw in that arrow itself, or if it's okay to just rub like crazy. Sometimes an action will just fail for no apparent reason, even if you precisely follow the arrows and rub your stylus raw.

The graphics are so awful that every character googly-eyed and deformed, and no environment ever moves beyond looking grainy. The sound is even worse, consisting of the same song played in a couple of slightly different ways. There's no voice acting, and that's probably a good thing because the dialogue and script are so bland that Shakespeare is probably weeping in his grave over the noble lost art of script writing.

Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco is a pointless exercise in tedium, so I have to say again that no one should ever consider spending money on this title. The show's gone now that Jamie Lynn Spears has moved out of the limelight, and this awful legacy should be buried somewhere out of sight so that no one will learn of the atrocities committed by this game.

Score: 3.2/10

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