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Zoey 101 - GBA - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 4.0 Below Average

Zoey is your average fashionable adolescent girl, preparing for the upcoming semester at Pacific Coast Academy boarding school. As she juggles friendships, boys, and classes, she must also prepare for the party being thrown for the entire school at the end of the year. If the party’s going to be a killer, she’s got to bring the school together by performing errands for everyone in sight. This is your assignment in Zoey 101 for the Game Boy Advance.

This is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write. I am neither familiar with nor a fan of the show it is based on. I’m not even in its target audience, which I can only presume is pre-teen girls. That said, I do know what factors add up to an enjoyable video-game experience; it is my sad duty to tell you that Zoey 101 has none of them.

The gameplay is structured into three semesters, with each semester containing three minigames. As you talk to the various students and faculty, each will challenge you to one of the three minigames for that semester. After besting each person, you are challenged to a “boss” round of each minigame; beating these enables you to advance to the next semester. At the end of the third semester, you attend the end-of-the-year party, which is the last minigame; success at the party completes the game.

The problem with all of this is that none of the minigames are any fun. There are a few that aren’t actively painful; the Mario Kart-esque Jet X Racing is merely mediocre, and Disc Golf is decent in a very forgettable way. The other eight all fall somewhere between “boring” and “cringe-inducing.” Two (Prank Week and Wrestling) are based on the gameplay mechanic of running away from danger. Wrestling merely makes it boring; Prank Week is full of unavoidable deaths and frustratingly short time limits, while still being boring. Sushi Fund Raising is like the worst version of Diner Dash imaginable. Basketball consists of little more than timing your button press to a meter which rises and falls slowly, which is just as much fun as you might imagine. Quinnventions is nothing more that a glorified jigsaw puzzle, and the pictures you piece together are bad drawings of robots. Rat Chase has you guiding a rat to his cage by placing denim shorts and cardboard tubes in his path; this is both exasperatingly trial-and-error based and boring at the same time. The party minigame is, believe it or not, a trash collecting simulator. The instruction manual says that Chemistry is Zoey’s worst subject, and, fittingly enough, it’s the worst minigame, too; it’s as if they took classic electronic game Simon and assigned each button press an agonizingly long animation that had to complete before you could press the next button.

The game fails in other regards, as well. The characters are poorly drawn cartoons which would be indistinguishable were it not for their differing ethnicities. Not only that, but the character graphics aren’t even consistent from minigame to minigame; Zoey from Basketball is unrecognizable as the same character from Wrestling, and so on. I said before that I haven’t seen the show, and that’s true. If this game’s cutscenes are any indication, though, the plots are poorly written and incomprehensible. Even the game’s sound is bad, with repetitive, grating effects and forgettable music. Another problem is that progress in the game is saved as a password containing numbers and case-sensitive letters. As the GBA has no sleep mode and most players on the go have no way to write down long passwords, saving progress will be difficult at best. Luckily, as the entire game can be completed in an hour and a half, saving is unnecessary.

Games based on children’s shows, especially high-profile Nickelodeon shows, receive lots of ad space and an assured fan base.  These types of licensed games usually sell fairly well to fans of the property in question. Fans of Zoey 101 might be inclined to give this game a try, but I can all but guarantee that they’ll regret it.

Review Scoring Details for Zoey 101

Gameplay: 4.1
All of the gameplay opportunities contained herein are either boring, frustrating, just plain unfun, or some combination of all three.

Graphics: 4.3
Poorly drawn cartoon versions of characters from the show, being poorly animated in front of poorly drawn backgrounds. Glitchy, too.

Sound: 4.2
The volume on your GBA should be turned off and kept off. Music is painful and sound effects are grating.

Difficulty: Easy
Despite some frustratingly cheap minigames, anyone could finish this one in an afternoon.

Concept: 3.8
A preteen does chores for everyone in sight, then cleans up the garbage at her own party. Not exactly thrilling material to base a videogame around.

Overall: 4.0
This is not a very good game.

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