Version tested: DS
Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop was a bizarre and half-arsed collection of mini-games, presented in a pleasingly cutesy fashion, but oh-so horribly repetitive. Tasked with running a series of shops, and assisted by a Tamagotchi friend of your choice, it was your job to keep a constant stream of customers satisfied within the rules of each store. There was cake decorating, bath heating, hair dressing, and even dentistry.
After a while, some weird dad version of your ‘Gotchi buddy would arrive, and the shop would get expanded, until the Princess Tamako gave you a special flag. Er. All this would unlock items that could be purchased in the "Care" section, where you decorated a room for your Tamagotchi, for seemingly no reason at all. None of the interactive relationship that had made the plastic keychain toys so popular was present. What should have been deeply varied was somehow monotonous and tiresome, and no matter how sweet the drawings, impossible to embrace.
None of your business
From the start, very little has changed. Even one of the first few shops is the same cake decorating business as before. If anything, they've lost the farther extent of their imaginative peculiarity, the more daft venues replaced by far more ordinary locations like a car garage, or flower shop. So you select a store, and begin completing the task within.
But this is, as before, not nearly as simple as you might imagine from a game clearly aimed at younger players. In some cases, it's so maddeningly obscure that you'll randomly stab the stylus at everything in frustration, astonished at how the "How To Play" tab for each shop is quite so stunningly useless. Then you figure it out, and set about repeating the very same dull task about ten times, before the Princess shows up. After appearing, she expands the size of your enterprise, supposedly increasing the difficulty but with little effect, and sometimes making more shops available for your investment.
There's one new feature, as all businesses appear to inevitably embrace, is the loyalty card. The hundred or so Tamagotchi customers collect stamps each time they visit one of your shops, so you can get to know them better, or something. And beyond this, nothing. Nothing new at all.
Staff and nonsense
Possibly the best example of what is so wrong with Corner Shop 2 would be the bowling alley. Available in the second clutch of buildings to buy, your task is not to enjoy a sweet bowling mini-game, but rather to stand the pins back up and roll the balls back toward the customer after their goes. It's from this menial angle that potential fun is approached throughout. It's a bit like an FPS where you have to clean up the dead bodies and mop the floors after the NPC hero has blasted his way through the corridor. You watch the mad-faced cartoon blobs excitedly throwing the ball at the pins, probably with a speech bubble saying something utterly bonkers like, "If I hit this, I'll ask out Mai!" and then tidy up afterward. I sure hope he was having fun.
Far too many stores rely on heavily prescribed routines, rather than the more imaginative games (like cake decorating where you at least get to draw the correct patterns for yourself). The gas station requires you to refuel, replace tyres, wash and wax each vehicle in turn, with little more to do that match the correct colours. Over and over, no variation. Even the health clinic is simply a case of holding the thermometer or stethoscope on the patient, then applying either heat or cold, then the appropriate shaped medicine.
The charming design and lunatic mentality is still just as present. It looks lovely - really simple pastel coloured cartoons, with big grins and barking mad banter. The above-mentioned clinic gives the excellent instruction, "Give the patient the medicine that is shaped the same as their cough." Customers in the cake shop will suddenly ask, "So who do you have a crush on?" embarrassing your ‘Gotchi friend terribly. When charged with being the captain of a plane, are you to safely pilot to destinations? No, of course not. Your job is to put books and food onto a trolley to match the desires of your clientele. Trouble is, that's a horribly boring thing to do, especially six times in a row.
The "Care" section is once again completely redundant, as much as you might want to collect every type of table available. And, as previously, the notion of some sort of interaction with your buddy is completely eschewed, although this time not quite as disturbingly. Tapping on the creature, you might think, would allow you to pet it, or even feed it in the fashion of the game's electronic namesake. Instead, it elicits peculiar complaints. Not the harrowing, "I said no, John!" of the last game, but still some deeply odd stuff.
"I'm going to play with John today."
"It hurts when I get poked."
"I know you're very gentle, John."
"To tell you the truth, I'm very mad right now."
And of course,
"I want to get into a pudding bathtub."
It really is the exact same game as before, with no development of what was already a weak concept. Oh wait - you can take "photos" of your cakes and so on, and share them with friends! Well then.
The frustration remains that the presentation is just splendid. You want to like it, and every time a little Tamagotchi says one his insanely irrelevant comments, it feels like this should be the sort of quirky daftness you'd love. But then the reality crashes back in, as you laboriously make burgers, or fill sushi orders, and you realise this is factory-line work, and not quite the stuff gaming dreams are made of. I only ever persisted with any mini-game out of obligation for the review, and am certain that I would never have gone beyond the opening shops if given the choice. Let us please all recognise the caveat that this is clearly aimed at weeny little girls who've got no better taste, but put it alongside Nintendogs and it's clear which will be preferred. Tedious repetition needs to be a little better disguised.
4 / 10