The Olsen twins have just passed the road test and it’s time to round up a crew for their sweet 16 party. Joined by two friends, Mary Kate and Ashley must race around the game board in this party-style board game to pick up friends and earn points. With support for up to four players and thirty mini-games there’s a decent variety of action as you attempt to be the first to finish the race with the most friends in your car. I suspect however, that since there were no parents at the DMV in the opening RTM that Mary-Kate and Ashley drove there illegally?
Sweet 16 is broken down into three modes; Arcade, Bring It On, and the main Adventure mode. Adventure mode offers a choice of two game boards, both of which are fairly large and complete with scenery corresponding to events the four girls will end up competing in. On the main menu you can determine game length by how many laps around the board you wish to do, how many rounds each player has and how many friends you need to find. There is also an option you can select called Game Length, however this always says Full Game no matter what combination of options you select. Movement around the board is determined by the numbers each user spins and as the cars move about they frequently go up on the sidewalks. Among the spaces you will encounter are shopping spaces, where you can purchase items with the coins that you’ve earned to help you on your way. The spare tire protects against the flat tire event, gas cans double your movement, cell phones bypass the spin and moves you to the nearest friend space on the board and PDA allows you to make a purchase from anywhere on the game board. Other spaces you may encounter are reverse next turn, shuffle board and player events where you may become lost or get a flat tire.
Landing on the same spot as an opponent will start a one on one game and at the end of each round there is a four player free for all game. After each game a screen appears showing each girl’s place, points, laps, friends and rank. Keys collected during games are converted to coins. The game leader (determined by points) can change music during the board game by changing the car’s radio station. When you quit out of an adventure you can return to the last save point. Prior to taking a turn on the game board you can press Square to view the map, but there is no indication as to which directions you can go.
In Bring It On you set the number of victories required to win and play through a group of games one after another without the story or game board. Arcade allows you to play any single game either one on one, three on one, elimination, teams of two or free for all. All three game modes support one to four players and because of the nature of the games split screens are never necessary. To nobody’s surprise some of the games are better than others. The two trivia games work well in that they mostly ask questions pertaining to driving and the Mary-Kate and Ashley films, however games such as Tag, You’re It and Stereo Showdown are completely mind-numbing. Tag is set in an extremely small area where all four girls play tag and getting caught is just a matter of time due to lack of space and poor maneuverability. In Stereo Showdown you stare at a car’s radio and wait for a button prompt to appear with the color corresponding to your player. Even events that could have been good fall short. Canyon Run (kayaking) and Sailboard Slalom (windsurfing) are a race to be first through the gates to get the most points. The faster you go the further up the screen you move and the less time you have to react when the gates appear, made more difficult by the inability to make sharp turns, general lack of control and occasionally getting stuck against walls and other players. What is useful is the ability to pause during any game and view the controls on the help screen.
From one end to the other Sweet 16’s graphics are sub-par with particularly horrific, low-poly character and car models. Thankfully the game boards are somewhat pleasant to look at and make good use of color though they definitely would have benefited from pedestrians and other vehicles. With such low polygon counts they wouldn’t have taxed the system and would have made the game feel more alive. The game Park-N-Hide is where you’ll find the worst graphical performance; as the car’s roofs retract they magically disappear into the trunk along with an impressive display of clipping. The sound seldom performs any better as the music skips every time you save the options on the main menu and dialogue becomes repetitive during games and you may hear “hope you like coming in second” twice within a few seconds. Additionally, the car noises that accompany movement on the front end don’t fit the game’s music at all.
What have we learned from all of this? Well first off, everyone gets a car the day they turn sixteen and it’s cool to talk on a cellular phone while you’re driving. In classic Acclaim style expect Sweet 16 to crash now and then- I guess it was just too much for the PS2 to handle- and you may also find the sound options adjusting themselves sporadically as you watch helplessly. While Sweet 16 doesn’t do anything particularly well there is some fun to be had with the numerous mini-games in the company of the right people and the board game adventure works fairly well. If there were a larger gaming demographic of ten year old girls this probably would have sold better.