High School Musical 2: Work This Out!
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-06-02 Nintendo DS Mini-games E (Everyone) Disney Interactive / Artifical Mind and Movement

No, I'm not a High School Musical fan. I never even watched the movies and I couldn't play the High School Musical: Sing It! karaoke game because I had no clue what songs those were. So what exactly am I doing reviewing this HSM game? Well, work implies I review all sorts of games, and supposedly, this should be one to appeal to young girls who are both fans of the movie and own a DS.

High School Musical 2: Work This Out takes place at the Lava Springs Resort as the characters from the movie get some summer jobs and work their way to participate in the Star Dazzle talent show. You get to play as Gabriella, Troy, Sharpay, Taylor, Ryan and Chad (alternating one character at a time for specific missions) in an adventure/exploration setting with a few rhythm mini-games thrown in the mix.

Basically, each day at the Lava Springs Resort is separated into a series of activities, which are shown on the notice board in the lobby. The top screen will show your character and its surroundings, while on the bottom you have your map.

Different areas become accessible as you progress, but you're never really told how to access them and you will only learn your way around and where all the shortcuts are by exploring. For example, a quest told me to meet someone by the golf course, which I had no idea where it was. Eventually I found a passage through the lower dining room that lead there. In a random timed event, someone needed help in the pool getting a new pair of shorts, but I had no idea where to go to get the shorts... At this time, the kitchen was highlighted since it was the daily task I had accepted.

The daily tasks are usually a mini-game or a collection quest. The collection quests are straightforward, but you have to roam around all over trying to find what you need within a time limit. If you fail, you can start again, and at least you have the advantage of knowing where a number of those objects are.

The mini-games vary in content, but are all rhythm-based and involve clicking something at the right time. In the umbrella game, you need to click the sun icons as they appear, so the girls don't get sunburned. The golf ball game makes you tap and drag the balls into the machine, but the trick is that you have to drop them below the vaccum tube. The basketball game is pretty much the same. The sandwich-making game has conveyor belts with ingredients that you tap and drag onto the bread, then bang the pots to call the waiter to take the ready sandwiches away.

The dancing game places a character on stage, doing some dance moves. To dance, you must tap the icons as they turn green. Tap too early or too late, and you miss the note. The problem is that the icons appear in different places, and many times your hand will be in the way of seeing where the next one is.

For every day of the week, there are also 30 CDs scattered around the resort. Collecting all of them and performing well in the mini-games unlocks trophies for the Trophy Case in the lobby.

One thing that actually annoyed me was the "loading time" between areas. When a character goes through a door or moves to a different area, the screen fades to black and then the new area appears. With so many games on the DS offering vast environments and having no trouble processing them, why do such small areas need an "intermission"? It really breaks the pace of the game, which is already generally slow unless you're on a timed quest.

The environments are rendered in a birdseye view perspective, and are fairly colorful, but not without their faults. The perspective makes it easy to miss collectibles that may be partially hidden by an umbrella, the polygon count isn't nothing to be impressed by, and any of the playable characters look similar to any original Sim. The animations seem a bit jerky, especially the dancing ones, which most of the time don't even match the rhythm of the music.

As far as the sound goes, there is no voice acting in the game and the dialogs are presented with still images of the characters and text. But the music certainly sounds nice. However, or a music-based franchise, you would assume the songs from the movie would have been all there from the start. But no. Until you unlock them during gameplay, you will be stuck listening to "You Are The Music in Me", all two versions of it, for the first hour.

A neat feature - if you like this kind of music, of course - is that you can use your DS as a music player. Just plug in the headphones, open the Jukebox, close the DS and there you go. The downside is that this option is only available once all songs have been unlocked.

Overall, High School Musical 2: Work This Out! really isn't a good game. The system can do better and so can the publisher and developer. Why didn't they, we will never know. I may not be a fan and I'm certainly way past the target age group, but I don't think I would recommend this game even to the most die-hard fans of the franchise.

Special thanks to Kate Pagliara and Disney Interactive for providing a copy of this title.