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My Secret Diary is one of the Oxygen My Games that provides more emphasis on self awareness than purely on play. It not only enables players to record their thoughts and dreams in diary style, but also provides some personality tests and fortune telling activities.
Self improvement games tap into the popular trend in self development and therapy. Experiences as diverse as Brain Training DS and Wii-Fit have popularised the idea that games can be about more than just having fun - they can improve your brain, body and even mental outlook on life.
My Secret Diary takes a similar approach to Imagine: My Secret World DS, providing many similar features. It benefits from the familiarity that comes from a shared interface with the other games in the series. It can also be used to chat to players with other games, which is a nice touch when siblings have either My Make Up DS or My Dress Up DS.
The My series from Oxygen Games take a different route to Ubisoft's Imagine series. The focus here is on familiarity rather than novelty. Their games each have a similar look and can all talk to each other. Not only does this enable siblings to play together regardless of which game they have - but it introduces some nice cross overs like importing a My Make Up face onto a My Dress Up model.
In addition to the entry of personal information and diary records - all of which you can password protect - the game also offers some self-awareness exercises. These nudge the experience towards a slightly older demographic.
The personality tests aim to measure the players outlook in a variety of scenarios. They do this by asking a series of questions then awarding the player a title based on their answers.
These scientific measures and then offset with some more magical (playful) measures that ask the player to touch a gemstone on the DS screen to identify their mood. In a similar vein there is also a fortune cookie game where players can choose a biscuit to receive words of wisdom.
Younger players will be attracted to the game because of the lure of the grown-up pursuit of keeping a diary. The actual entry of daily records may wain after a while, but there are plenty of other distractions here to keep them engaged.
Passing the DS around a group of friends in the playground each trying their hand at the personality tests is (I am told) lots of fun. Challenging passing adults to touch the magical gem stone, then pronouncing their mood for the day also became a popular pursuit in our household.
The game takes a little while to setup the first time you play, but thereafter can be dipped into as time allows. Younger players that get into the game are likely to spend longer setting out their little diary world, getting it just how they want it. The password protection is useful to keep younger brothers and sisters from messing up their hard work.
Very young players will struggle with the text driven nature of the experience. But those of school age will find it exercises both their reading age and imagination. As with the other My games, it's a shame that the experience is so Girl focused, as one could imagine more creative boys finding a lot of fun here.
Intermediate and Expert players, or anyone of more mature years are likely to find the game a little trite, but then it's really not aimed at them. Played with a young daughter or niece the game is a lot of fun to share.
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