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My Friends is a game for kids who truly have no friends. It is designed for the most anti-social of children who cannot muster the energy to go outside, make real friends, and engage in basic outdoor play. It’s true that games designed for children aren’t all flash and bang and bullets and guns and graphics and stories like games for adults. Still, that’s no excuse for a game simulating playground activities like Tag. That just seems depressing.

Even your friends in My Friends don’t want to be your friends, should you forget to ask them to play and give them gifts like toy cars and cookies. Anyway, let’s take a look… despite my objections, there is some substance to My Friends that may be enough to entertain a very young child.

The cover art of My Friends speaks to what I just said: this game is targeted towards small children. I think that anyone over the age of 7 or 8 will probably find themselves bored or uninspired by this title after a short spell when comparing it to other games they own, but I could imagine a younger crop getting a kick out of it for a while.

Lots of stuff is happening on the cover. Little kids are just everywhere, playing on things, running around and having a real jolly time. It looks like a crazy fun time and gives the impression there is just a boatload of stuff to be had inside. It’s somewhat true.

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Specifications:

My Friends

Create your very own friends, play games with them, create new outfits and share gifts in your very own Friends World!


Create new outfits for your new friends with hundreds of cool looks, hairstyles, sunglasses and clothes.
Play lots of mini-games with your friends like Treasure Hunt, Tag, Mad Dash and many, many more
Collect toys, snacks, gifts and surprises and share them with your friends. Happy friends will share new games to play, new places to explore and cool new clothes, hairstyles and looks.
Explore the Playground, Woods, Ice Rink, Sports Field and more in Friends World for special items and unlockables
Swap your friends and gifts with other Nintendo DS owners or chat with them using DS Wireless Communications

Release Date: 31 July 2009

Formats: DS

Age Rating: 3+


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My Friends is a series of playground games. You go to different playground-type areas, like an ice rink, sports field and an actual playground. At said locations you make friends and play common outdoor games. But before you can do any of that, guess what you need… friends! They don’t just happen automatically, you have to create them all to your own design.

That’s right – before you actually get to play anything in My Friends, you have to spend a good number of minutes creating said friends. You’re given options that should be familiar to anyone who has played games in the My Games series by O-Games, including hair, skin color, clothes, favorite animal, favorite music, and the like. Many of these choices have no bearing on anything, but others do.

You design and name these friends then assign them to one of the playground areas. It’s like creating gangs and giving them turf. This here’s Reggie, he’s going to represent the Ice Rink hood. Everyone there wears green horizontal stripe shorts and has pink hair. Stay clear or he’ll knife you.

I wish it were that dramatic.

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Once you’ve created your cliques, you can play games with them. Tag is the first game made available to you on the playground. To play tag, you trace your stylus around the screen and your character follows. Running faster requires you to push one of the bumper buttons on the DS. To make this work, you have to have one hand holding the DS with a finger on the bumper, and the other hand navigating the stylus. While these controls respond well and work, I find them to be a little awkward. I would have really preferred to move my character using the D-pad on the DS if I’m going to be using a bumper button to make him run. That’s a personal preference, though, and others may find this control structure to be fine.

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Tag is fun for a few minutes, but ultimately playing a game like tag isn’t very exciting when you aren’t actually running around. Or with real friends. Or outside. Couldn’t I just go outside and play tag for real? Sure, it might be raining or something… but there’s really nothing else I could be doing aside from playing simulated tag with creepy cartoon friends on a 3” screen? Sounds like the formula for developing an introverted personality in real people.

Still, I think it would entertain a five year-old. It’s sort of addicting in a strange way…

Completing games makes gifts and stuff appear around the playground area, regardless of whether you win or lose (patronize much?). You find them and pick them up, then give them to the other friends you have created to make them happy. This is required if you want to unlock new customizations for your friends and new games to play.

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That’s right – you have to bribe your digital friends to play more games with you, else you’ll be stuck playing tag with Buttressa for the rest of your life. That’s what I named my first friend. Buttressa.

Fortunately I also made a girl named Jane who looks like my fiancé, at least as much as an awkward, pixely cartoon girl can look like a real person. Once I handed her a bag of barbeque chips I found in the corner of the playground, I unlocked another game – Fox and Hound. That’s my girl.

So that’s how My Friends moves forward. You play games, unlock prizes, give the prizes to people, and unlock new games. Eventually you unlock the rest of the play areas, stuff for your characters and other things that “expand” the game.

Nintendo DS wireless communications allow you to give and receive gifts with other real-life friends, or import/export characters into each others games. Though again, if you have a living, breathing, human friend sitting next to you as you play tag together on your DS, I’d have to argue that there’s better things you could be doing. Like playing real tag.

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The graphics in My Friends are pretty weird. They’re not completely horrible, but they aren’t good. Awkward is a fitting description. The environments are 2D/3D, and the characters are all wacky shaped and jagged. They look like some sort of manga cartoon gone crazy; like looking at a plush doll held underwater. Their movements (which for some reason change depending on the personality you assign to each friend) are also strange, and most characters run like they are drunk or in a low-gravity world.

I was overjoyed to hear music in this game. It’s not constant, but is present when you are actively involved in a playground activity. The music isn’t good or catchy, but O-Games are notoriously silent, so I was just happy to find music regardless of its quality. Playing in silence only magnifies the boredom level in already sub-par games.

This game is like The Sims, but with way less complexity. If The Sims is beef wellington, My Friends is beef jerky.


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Conclusion:

For me, My Friends doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not extremely well-made, there isn’t much to do, and the things you can do can better be accomplished in real life. It’s simply not successful against all the other products available.

Fortunately for My Friends, I’m not the target market, and I do believe the game has the ability to entertain some very, very lonely children for a little while. The visuals and sound are lacking, the game play is weak, but little kids don’t always care. It’s simplistic, can be strangely addictive and is completely designed for the very young audience that doesn’t need complexity or complication in their gaming. In that respect, it has the potential to be successful.

Unfortunately, the game comes with a $30 price tag. Compared to other $30 games for the DS, My Friends is a pitiful comparison, and the price point could be its biggest deterrent. The game simply doesn’t offer $30 worth of content, and few parents will pick up this title on a whim at that price knowing that their kid might find it boring.

There’s a door on every house. Go through it and play tag for real.

5

Pros:
+Responsive controls
+Stuff to unlock, development to be had.
+Fun for a few minutes
+Very kid friendly

Cons:
-Overpriced
-Content is repetitive
-Graphics are really odd
-Sound is weak

Grades:
Overall score-5-10
Design score-4-10
Performance score-6-10