Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shopping Street

Man, I've been waiting all week to review this game.

You know, what with the economy being so far down the crapper, now more than ever we have to amuse ourselves without breaking the bank (any more than it already is.) That's when we really see the value of the millions of Flash games available to play for free online. Hours of entertainment are at our finger tips, waiting for us along the Information Superhighway. And because the economy will eventually start to recover (right?) it makes perfect sense to check out a game that might help us develop our own business savvy so that we don't find ourselves in this situation again. With that in mind, let's take a look at Shopping Street.

I want to make one thing clear - I knew this wasn't going to be a good game before I ever saw the title screen. I can't really put my finger on why, but if you do click the link above and check out Shopping Street, maybe you too will feel a little weirded out by the Flonga robot as it glides silently into the centre of the screen and stares at you with its beady green eyes. In fact, there's no music or any sound whatsoever until you press the start button and are presented with the level select screen. The goal is to build a shopping empire, starting from a simple mom 'n' pop business and eventually reaching the heights of Manhattan. Every level requires that you earn a certain amount within a fixed period of time to carry on to the next stage. I played through the whole game, amazingly, so I'm going to go right to the final New York level for the rest of this review.

I'm doing that because at no time does anything in Shopping Street change - not the background, nor the colour scheme, nor any of the shops you can build - so by going straight to the last level I can show you everything without boring with you with how I got there.

And believe me, you'd be bored. I was, and I was playing the damn game. Not even Stephen King could make describing this game anything more than monotonous, but maybe if you see how little there is to write about Shopping Street, that might put you off playing the game. Either way, I've done my job.

You start every level with the same amount of money - I guess inflation can't be that bad if you can set up a pet store in Manhattan for $3,000. The pet store should always be your first purchase, as it can hold more customers and earn more money than the boutique, which is the only other shop you can buy at the start of the level.

I'm going to review this game as best I can, but I might as well show you a sure-fire way to beat any level in this game. This method is foolproof and guaranteed to succeed every time.

Anyway, build your pet store and a couple of benches (and a "music ad" which is supposed to attract people to your store) and then the happy little people will come along and buy stuff. Once you've got the cash you can buy a boutique, upgrade your stores a little and then build a bus stop. The bus stop will grant you another dozen shoppers, which is always handy. The bus should only stop there once a day but on more than one occasion I came across a glitch that meant a constant stream which theoretically could go on forever. Clearly, whoever programmed this game has never experienced the US public transport system.

Keep on building and upgrading your shops and... well, that's it. The money will come in slowly at first, but as you build more your earnings will grow exponentially. Just remember not to waste your money on a restaurant until you've got most of the other stores, as they have very little return and people will hang around inside them forever. Even on fast mode it took ages for any customers to leave, which is a great complement to the food and service but utterly useless to me when I've got to raise a million bucks in thirty days.

Which reminds me of the most important advice I can give - switch to Fast Mode immediately and turn off the annoying music (first they give us no music, then they give us music we don't want to hear - great.) The customers move at an arthritic pace, meaning the greatest challenge is one of patience.

Shopping Street is like a Flash Field of Dreams - if you build a shitload of stores, people will come and spend obscene amounts of money. Nothing ever goes wrong in Shopping Street; there's nothing that the customers won't buy. It's weird watching someone who can't get into a furniture store deciding to visit a jeweller's instead. I've never seen such a large group of people so desperate to get rid of their money. By the time you've got all the shops built, you don't even need any of the crap designed to slow shoppers down, like benches or news stands. They just keep walking from one place to the next, regardless of what that shop is, until they run out of money and scamper off with big smiles on their faces.

I've played some really easy games in my time, but this is ridiculous. Once you've completed one level, you'll complete the rest without any difficulty. If capitalism was this easy we wouldn't be in a God damn global recession!

Sure enough, on the last day - just like always - I meet my goal. Such is the demand for electronics and puppies that I was guaranteed victory from the start. I think I deserve an award just for playing all the way through this mind-numbing, coma-inducing bore of a game.

But no, this is all I get - one last half assed graphic to let me know I'm the new Donald Trump. But then, I suppose you get out of something whatever you put in, and since I didn't have to do squat to beat Shopping Street I should be thankful for generic smiley faces.

This was the first game from Flonga that I've had a chance to play, and it goes without saying that it didn't make a good first impression. With slow, boring, repetitive gameplay and uninspired graphics, it seems the recession is even hitting Flash games - as far as ideas go, we're bankrupt.

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