Wasted Youth Part One
Well it finally happened. After years of cheating, fighting and swirly-giving, you've been expelled, and your parents aren't happy. The only thing standing between you and juvenile detention is St. Frost's School for Slackers, Troublemakers and Idiots. The students are a bunch of violent sadists and amiable dunces, the teachers aren't much better, and the last new student had a nervous breakdown two months in. But hey, you ruled one school before didn't you? How different can this one be? It's all about doing the right things for the right people, right?... Such is the premise of Wasted Youth Part One, the new sandbox adventure-RPG from GPStudios.
Presented in a slightly-isometric top-down perspective, you walk around St. Frost's using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, holding down the [shift] key to run. When you wish to interact with something, or talk to someone, hit the [spacebar]. [P] brings up the pause menu, where many of the games functions can be found, including the inventory screen, the mission screen, your map, and the "Pigglymon" cards that are the game's secret collectible. Generally, gameplay consists of receiving missions from people, then solving puzzles or retrieving items to complete them to progress the story. There are a number of optional classes and side-missions, not to mention a host of unlockables, easter eggs, and elements that serve no purpose other than to present you with a snarky comment. Will you climb to the head of the class, or will your life be naught but an unending series of wedgies?
Analysis: Let's get something out of the way: even if Wasted Youth wasn't directly inspired by Bully, there are some distinct similarities that can't be ignored. Indeed, Wasted Youth might accurately be described as Bully for the casual audience... as written by a typical 1999 message board. By the standards of flash gaming, there's a distinctly classical feel to proceedings, and not just in its slightly-MSPainty graphics: Wasted Youth revels in a misanthropy that I recall from my youthful interactions with the web. Is it strange that I feel a sort of nostalgia for a time when the internet consisted mainly of complaining about teachers and using java applets to do harm unto Barney the Dinosaur? I don't know, but this game manages to capture a certain sense of immaturity the web once had, and I mean that as a compliment.
I can imagine that Wasted Youth will divide opinion, mainly due to its sense of humor. It is a game that is decidedly juvenile. I don't mean that to be a positive or a negative, merely a statement of fact. After all, to paraphrase Ferris Beuller, Wasted Youth might be childish, but then again, so is high school. The characters in this game are profane in speech, with a distinct preference for toilet humor... In other words, they're high school students. There's nothing wrong with liking your humor a little crude: if you do, you might like Wasted Youth, but if you don't, this game probably won't be for you. In addition, the tone is quite abrasive, even insulting to the player. Personally, I always find it kind of hilarious when a narrator seems to hold you in contempt (especially when, as in this game, the player-character seems to deserve it), but others may find it tiring.
Humor concerns aside, there's a lot to like. The developers have succeeded in crafting a setting that's open and active and worth exploring. They've filled it with characters that, while not realistic, are at least varied in their archetypes. I personally liked Xerxes, the slightly-insane, darkness-spewing goth. The dude just cracked me up every time he made an appearance. The story that holds this open-world together is loose, but intriguing enough to have kept me playing (if only to see what jerk would be getting what comeuppance.) Really though, the appeal here is the massive amount of content to explore... even if said content-mass did cause a little browser slowdown from time to time.
I think it'll only take a couple of minutes to figure out whether or not Wasted Youth is for you. Me? I liked it, and I'm glad that the developers put together such a large world to play in. According to the makers, this is only part one... I hope that there's not too much of a summer break before the next installment