Got me doing things I’ll never do…
The idea that video games are going through a period of maturation is probably the sole driving force as to why I’m still interested in the medium. I’m talking about the idea that at some point someone got up in a crowded room and shouted, “Hey, video games are written really, really poorly. Also, why is there so many dudes here? We should probably fix this.”
With that in mind, creators eventually began creating new experiences and criticism became more focused, but I think it’s important that every once in a while we look back to figure out why games needed to change.
Boy is Ubisoft’s 2005 Nintendo DS launch title Sprung a prime example of bad, mid 2000s video games writing.
This should probably be self-evident, after all, the game is named Sprung.
With a title like that, this game was practically begging for me to cover it for this column, because nothing says ephemeral like naming your game after a hit T-Pain song. And yes dear reader, I fell for this blatant pandering. “Sprung, the game where everyone scores? What a goof of a game,” I said to myself. “I can’t wait to totally own this piece of video game software from 2005 with some witty T-Pain humor. I’m so dang clever.”
Turns out the joke is on me, because this game is a miserable time.
Sprung is sort of a dating and visual novel hybrid, where you get to play as two young twentysomethings by the name of Brett, a man, and Becky, a woman. Becky and Brett are good friends who have known each other since childhood and Brett has brought Becky on a trip to unwind. Set in a vacation trip at a ski-resort, you and your friends are out to make this trip memorable and have it filled with “dating, drama and debauchery.”
I myself don’t have a lot of experience with visual novels, so while my expectations were low, I was open to the idea of experiencing one. After choosing Becky I jumped in.
So Sprung, what do you have to offer?
This is the first five minutes of the game. Stop it, Sprung.
To be fair to Sprung, there are other dialogue options to choose from. But golly, every other answer is either uninteresting or ludicrous. These options go from, “How are you?” to “Wanna do gross sex stuff with our parts?”
Also, I decided to quickly play through this opening section with Brett, and none of his dialogue options were as ridiculous or as sexually charged as Becky’s were, so that’s nice.
“Surely this can’t go on for the rest of the game, can it?” I asked myself.
Thankfully Sprung tones it down just a bit for the rest of the game, it’s still bad, but at least there are moments where you can catch your breath.
Becky’s goal on this excursion is to have so much fun that she forgets her cheating ex-boyfriend, who looks like a stand-in for Ryan Seacrest.
Becky then sets her sights on the son of the owner of the resort that they are staying in, this wonderful gentleman.
You have them exchange in a boring, “I really just want to have sex,” conversation and then they somehow become a couple. I say somehow, because the dialogue is so unnatural and cliche that it’s hard to believe that these two wanted anything more than just a one night stand, yet the game paired them up anyways.
Unsurprisingly, handsome boy cheats on Becky with her best friend, you know, the “hit my slopes” girl?
Becky then makes the very well thought out decision of sleeping with handsome boy’s best friend to get back at him. You can tell that these two boys would be good friends.
She gets back at him, breaks up their friendship, and all of this is incredibly uninteresting. So excuse me if I skipped out on a lot of the details. But this concludes in an incredibly contrived way, as Becky finds out that Brett has had a crush on her since they were kids. They hook up and live happily ever after. That’s it.
If you couldn’t tell, Sprung is rather simple, as these dialogue choices are the entire game.
There are no mini-games or diversions, but there are these self-contained instances with the characters that don’t affect the narrative. One of these “bonus episodes”, as the game calls them, was an insult competition.
You know when you’re at a family gathering, one where you catch up with relatives you never see, and then suddenly your estranged uncle brings up the topic of politics and you can feel your stomach drop because of the incredibly uncomfortable conversation that’s about ensue? That’s what I felt when Sprung introduced this insult competition. Because I had no faith that this could amount to anything endearing or humorous. I was not wrong.
Warning: This part of the game is pretty nasty. It handles gender/ sexual identity, mental disability and ghosts (?) in a pretty awful manner.
Sprung is bad. When it’s not bad it’s being corny, boring, or flat out offensive. It’s crazy that this game headlined the launch lineup of the Nintendo DS and I cannot find much redeeming about it apart from the fact that you can find an actual DS in-game. I also cannot stress how uninteresting it is to play through. I hardly could stay invested through out Becky’s story, and I can’t imagine having just finished reading over five hours worth of this dialogue and then saying, ”Boy, I can’t wait to play the other campaign to see the whole story!” Sprung feels like it was made for the worst people I knew in seventh-grade, for people who thought they were mature and knew better. Thankfully a lot of those people grow up, but Sprung hasn’t, and it remains an immature joke.