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Imagine: My Secret World joins a host of other Imagine titles from Ubisoft aimed largely (although not exclusively) at the casual girl gamer. It sits towards the more grown up end of the range with the likes of Imagine: Girl Band DS or Imagine: Fashion Model DS.
Edu-gaming titles combine the fun of play with the self improvement of education. As recent research and educational approach in schools shows, these two bedfellows work very well together. Titles usually consist of a series of mini-tasks around a particular subject. Some games in this genre simply use the topic as a theme for its games, whilst others are more obviously education or coaching based.
They all track various stats from the player's performance each day. This enables the game to provide feedback and advice about their progress or lack thereof.
Unlike other edu-gaming titles, Imagine: My Secret World focuses on self-understanding rather than self-improvement. Accordingly the metaphor of a diary is a great fit. That this is somewhere you can be honest about who you are is substantiated by the need to create a password for the game before you can play.
Once setup players pick their current mood before creating a profile for themselves. The aim here is to create an on screen you, that is then used to record various bio data. As they progress through the various tasks, additional options are enabled here such as stickers, new outfits and accessories. This is one of the ways the game incentivises time spent in the other activities. These revolve around simple question and answer personality test challenges. These range from questions about what you prefer to picking a favourite picture in a time limit. Once completed these result in a personality graph which starts to build a picture of the sort of person they are.
Players are drawn to the secret diary aspect of the game. This hook is then maximized by some solid controls. The DS is held sideways so that it feels like a book - another nod towards the diary metaphor. Items are selected from lists that spin around the screen much like the familiar iPod click wheel. The time and effort spent on these details makes playing the game feel like a genuinely diary-like experience.
Players will want to spend a good thirty minutes on early sessions as they get themselves setup with the diary and learn their way around. As time goes by these sessions become shorter and more frequent. The portable nature of the DS means you can take it with you anywhere and fire it up to add a quick entry as the mood takes.
Super young players will quickly be stumped at the reading heavy aspect of the game. Although attractive to look at the game is really aimed at older girls.
Young and intermediate players will probably be the best fit here. Providing a reasonable reading age there are plenty of other visual clues to the action to help you along. The pre-requisite here is the desire to keep a diary - and essentially learn about yourself.
Expert gamers and those a little older will probably balk at the slightly simple approach to self development, recognising it as a stage they went through at school rather than one they want to pursuit further here.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: