Review: Winx - Join the Club (PSP)

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Good: Very few people will ever actually play it

Bad: Absolutely everything

Worst: Game ever?

I can't, for the life of me, fathom why anybody would think making a game like Winx Club: Join The Club would be a good idea. I don't even think the developers themselves knew why they were making this game. I can't imagine the PSP's age 5-7 females with learning disabilities demographic is very large, and I would expect that to be the only group this sort of thing would appeal to. It's no wonder the final product looks like almost no effort went into it. Nobody out there is going to bother playing it.

First of all, there's the intrinsic problem with the source material, which I can't imagine being very healthy for young, impressionable girls. The world of Winx revolves around a group of fairies attending school for, well, fairies. Serving as positive role models for the American female youth, these fairies spend their free time thinking about nothing but clothes, boys, and the air floating around in their heads. I really can't think of a franchise with characters this shallow. Imagine Harry Potter if the boys spent their free time drinking beer, downloading porn, and jerking off, and you'd basically have the male equivalent of this inane franchise. Now imagine marketing that to five-year-olds and you might have a good idea of what's wrong with this series.

But never mind the inherent stupidity of the series, let's discuss the mindblowing suck-factor of the game. Join The Club is essentially a bunch of poorly-designed minigames strung together by a menial story about witches and dark lords attacking the school. Occasional cutscenes taken from the animated series are thrown in to give some narrative, but these are so lazily implemented that occasional credits from the show pop up during the videos.

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The minigames themselves are high in number and low in quality. This is definitely a case where the developers would have been better off cutting the number of minigames in half and instead concentrating on making them good. Perhaps the worst of the lot are the various minigames that have the player guiding a character down a narrow path, dodging obstacles. A large number of minigames fall into this category, and all are equally bad. For one thing, you cannot control your character while in air after jumping, so should an obstacle come from offscreen in front of you after you've already pressed the jump button, you're basically just stuck hitting it.

None of the other minigames are much better. There are a few memorization-based minigames, but these are so painfully simple, anybody with half a brain should be able to solve them. Another is an SSX-style downhill race, where you can do tricks to earn, well, nothing. These are simply some of the most mundane, simple, poorly designed minigames I have ever seen. Even the DS version of Winx Club was more engaging.

The load times also merit mention. I spent more time looking at the loading screens than actually playing the game, no exaggeration. Expect loads that sometimes stretch upwards of a minute every time you enter a new location, view a cutscene, or start a minigame. It's not like you'll be super thrilled when you actually get to the game, but it's still grating seeing the word "Loading:" pop up more than the game itself.

In terms of replay, the game tries to offer some incentive in the form of unlockable outfits, furniture, and other items. However, the gameplay itself is so bad, it's unlikely anyone will want to come back for a second playthrough.

Technically, the game is an outright waste of your senses. The graphics are so simplistic that it's actually a small marvel the framerate is as bad as it is. At times during the minigames, the game gets so choppy that your character will literally disappear for a moment and then reappear on the other side of the screen.

Sound is also very bad. The fairies sound about as idiotic as their characters are, and then there's the music. Simply put, I hope whoever does the music for Winx Club never gets work again. This is hands down the worst pre-teen pre-fab pop crap I have ever heard, and if I ever have a daughter that listens to this stuff, she will find herself up for adoption very quickly.

I don't really have a single nice thing to say about Winx Club. This is simply one of the laziest games I have ever played. I have never seen a game where it has been so transparent that even the developers probably loathed the product they were making. If you have a daughter that is a fan of the series, she probably doesn't need videogames to dumb her down any further. Avoid this game at all costs.

Graphics: 2.5

Sound: 2.0

First Play: 2.0

Replay Value: 2.5

Gameplay: 2.0

Overall: 2.2

Comments

daysawayac 11 years, 4 months ago

Believe it or not, the developers (I being one of them) had a blast working on the product up until the very end, I'll explain. You are right when you said that we must have known the demographic was small, we did, but we didn't care. I'll bust out a mini post-mortem for you.

daysawayac 11 years, 4 months ago

What went right: Knowing that we had a very limited audience means we didn't have to worry about the nit picky things that power gamers usually call the developers on. No, we didn't have the best graphics, because well, 7-12 year old females don't really care about that sort of thing. Most of our content was given to us (read Audio, and Video clips) by 4Kids, so aside from compressing them into the correct format, had no control over that sort of stuff.. which meant a smaller dev team, and less work. Early in the project when we implemented the Dorm Room Decoration mini game we had one of the developers daughters in the studio, we wanted to get her opinion on some of the content. She sat there and played dress up for 45 minutes.. completely ignoring all other aspects of the game. This really shocked us, and at that point we realized that the mini-games was not the point of this product at all, it was the other content that made it fun for our target audience. We then started focusing more on things like unlocking outfits, trading unlockables between friends, and the social aspects of the game, rather than the mini-games themselves.

daysawayac 11 years, 4 months ago

What went wrong: Porting an engine that we have used on 3 other platforms to use the PSP was a chore. At first it was great, and we got everything up and running pretty fast, but the shortcomings of the PSP hardware really bit us in the ass later in the project. The given content was terrible. We had to do everything we could to make it as nice as we did, and even then it still came out looking like a half-assed job. The worst thing about the entire project, was the fact that in development for Sony hardware you don't have access to the final burned UMD roms until VERY late in the project. On our dev hardware the load times were between 10 and 15 seconds at most, and usually the load screen would only flash briefly. Once the UMD was burned and we got ahold of it, we all died a little inside. After many meetings with our Artists, Programmers, and Design teams we knew that there was nothing we could possibly do to make the loads any faster at that stage of the game, and due to the lack of testing support, we had the game fail for TRC violations 6 times before Sony started taking us seriously. We were not sure where the ball was dropped, but we completely lost track of it.

As for the minigames themselves, you have to consider the audience. There were times where we had the minigames in a state that if a gamer could see past the fact that they were playing fairy avatars, were really fun. But we were told time and time again to scale it back, due to the demographic. What we ended up with was a ton of short, easy to play minigames that took forever to load.

daysawayac 11 years, 4 months ago

What we would have done different: The Sony model format was an extremely poor choice to use in our situation. Since it does not account for loading parts of a model, and animating those parts, it did not fit well in our design. The biggest part of the load time happens when we have to load in every single piece of clothing that you could possibly use on any given character, every time we popped in and out of minigames and hubs. If we could go back and rewrite a model format that allowed us to only have to load whatever the character was wearing, we could cut the loading times by 75% easily. But by the time we figured all of this out, it was way too late to start over, remaking all of our game assets.

In conclusion: I can see why most people would want to stay away from this title. But the targeted demographic is not most people. Bad reviews on an attempt at a blockbuster game is one thing, but I have yet to see a 12 year old girl write a comprehensive review.

Winx_Charmix 10 years ago

I love that game is one of the best games on psp!!!

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