If you were to read an ad for your local shrink that goes “…try to make all your patients happy by manipulating their feelings and relationships!”, you should either call your local authority because there is a monster among us, or check the name of the doctor on the ad to see if it is your psycho ex that tried to convince that you need to murder your uncle because he made a joke about her in a family gathering. Expecting someone to go for your service with such product description is just not normal. But for Social Sessions, it is, apparently!
Luckily for you, I will not spend the entire review talking about how it is not cool, in fact borderline psychopathic, to make a game where a player is asked to flip buttons to change a person’s emotions, to sabotage someone’s mental well-being to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself, all while you are asked to spend as little time as possible with your patients as a doctor, and then try to convince the player that it is all fun and games. Sadly, I think it is not fun, and is hardly a game.
What I will talk about in this review, however, is how Hester Gaming is fundamentally lacking in the general understanding of its own sick theme in this game. They make their mediocrity even more obvious by painting the whole thing by bugs and general laziness. To be honest, I believe this game could have been so much better, with a right twist ol’ puzzle game that could have inspired many with the delicate subject of mental illness.
Let’s talk about the fundamentals first. A game is fun because there are risks and punishments for making mistakes: the arcade in our childhood had quarters. The new-gen console or PC games make a voice in your head goes “You spent 80$ on this game and you are not having fun. You have to wake up early tomorrow to go to work. Or you will not make enough money for the DLC of the game that comes out next month…”. I know that mobile games often use a softer punishing stick for the players, as it is more profitable for the game companies to have the players stay around longer. However, Social Sessions seriously lacks that spicy burn that you get for messing up. You have unlimited tries on previously played stages and you get infinite moves. Since it IS a therapy themed game, they could have limited the number of times a player can use negative reinforcements, or limit the number of interactions with the patients. Too bad Hester Game decided to make a typical puzzle game that has patients’ faces instead of brightly coloured buttons.
Like i said, Social Sessions was so lazily made. Some of the patients don’t even have more than one facial expression. I know it is very difficult to capture the complex human emotions, however that is not a good enough excuse to have the same face for a character and just change the background colour. It is especially not a good excuse when you only have either a smiley face or a frowny face. This game could have added so much more depth by bringing the concept of “over dosage”. For example, if a patient were to be exposed to the same treatment repeatedly, and deeply rooted to a tone of emotion, it could have make the patient more resistant to opposing effects.
I know I spent most of this review giving advice to Hester Gaming when I was supposed to talk about if you, as a player, should give Social Sessions a shot or not. In a way, I believe I have done that by giving you a quote from their own game description at the beginning. If you want me to spell it out for you, I wouldn’t recommend a game that tries to lure players by making false promises. Even if you are someone like me, someone who doesn’t believe in boundary in creativity, it entails that the final product shows dedication and attempts to handle a touchy subject as carefully as possible. Before I finish, I would like to say “You could do better and you should not ever stop trying to be better” to Hester Gaming, you who is reading this review this far, and mostly, to people who are suffering from mental illnesses.