Xbox Live Indie Games Review: Life In The Dorms
Life in the Dorms reminds me that I never actually got to experience dorm life during my time at University. In all the excitement of having passed my A-Levels and having my place on an English & History course at Leeds Metropolitan University confirmed I forgot one major detail – to send my form back confirming my need for a room in one of the Halls of Residence. I found it in a drawer the week after my deadline, leaving me completely gutted and searching a student housing website for strangers to live with. I eventually ended up with three random people, although it wasn’t the best year of my life as I had been lead to believe. Something tells me I would have had a better experience had I been in the ‘dorms’, but if my first day was in any way as chaotic Dack Peeples (awesome name by the way) then maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t open that drawer earlier.
As soon as you begin playing Life in the Dorms you get the impression that Dack isn’t as fond as going to University as I initially was, especially as all his friends from home now scattered around the country. He’s faced with the few boxes of his meagre possessions, a turtle with the delightful name of Bernard and a constant nagging feeling to update this Twi… *ahem* Flitter account to let all his old friends know all about the mundane moments of his life. However, before Dack can do this he needs to remember his password that just so happens to be inspired by something in the room. Is it one of his DVD’s? Is it the laughably large box of ramen noodles? Or is it his trusty turtle?
So control is handed over to the player and you’re confronted with your first puzzle, which is simple enough and lets you know what to expect. The puzzles later on continue to follow your standard point-and-click adventure game mechanic; allowing you to pick up items, look at them for humorous descriptions and combine them with other items to progress. I won’t reveal how to solve any of the puzzles, but I will say that’s it’s not always as easy as you think and some of the combinations seem a bit out there, then again that’s probably what Moment Games were aiming for. After playing years of adventure games though I’ve discovered that sometimes all you can do is try everything to see what works, a tactic I employed when I had no idea how to move a fridge. It’s this experimentation and the odd results that’s always been part of the fun in adventure games, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
We’ve all faced homesickness when we’re in a strange place with new faces, and that feeling can be initially hard to overcome at University until you realise that everyone else is in the same boat. Thankfully Dack’s creepy dorm supervisor, Brian, is on hand with a scavenger hunt to help the new arrivals bond with their roommates. Unfortunately Dack’s roommate is missing, and possibly a serial killer if Dack’s slightly warped mind is anything to go by. I suppose it’s the feeling we’d all probably get if we moved into somewhere with a stranger, the feeling that you could be sharing a home with a bit of a weirdo. So, if you thought that Life in the Dorms would have you trying to live off ramen noodles and frantically trying to finish an essay before the deadline then you’ll be very surprised at the barmy direction the story takes, but it’s always amusing and never shies away from breaking the fourth wall.
The graphics are passable, but then again the game doesn’t need anything spectacular as that’s not the aim. Gameplay wise it does tend to move a bit slow at times, such as the animations being overly long and the constant need to slowly correct himself to stand in a certain position every time you click on something. It’s also missing voice acting, although personally I felt that it didn’t really require it as the dialogue is humorous enough on its own.
All in all I had fun with Life in the Dorms. I love my adventure games, with a great fondness for the type of offbeat humour that Monkey Island and Sam & Max were packed with. I dare you not to crack a smile at all the odd characters and Dack’s increasingly strange musings on life, and while the gameplay may not be utterly original, with the puzzles never overly hard, you’re at least getting a fun story that you can enjoy for a few hours. At only 80 MS Points it’s well worth a look.