Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4
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In an industry undoubtedly focused on the interests of teenage boys and men, it's not often that a game unashamedly aimed at teenage girls appears. That's exactly what happened when School 26 came out earlier this year offering a storyline focused on a teenage girl trying to make her way in a new high school. Now, improving upon the earlier game's success comes School 26: Summer of Secrets - a game that follows the mantra of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Socializing is the most important element within School 26: Summer of Secrets with players controlling Kate as she gets to know more about her school friends as they team up to compete in the local music festival's Battle of the Bands competition. Echoing real life teenage relationships, things go far from smoothly with secrets scattered throughout. It's down to the player to coerce secrets out of others while also using tact to share the relevant secret with the relevant person. It's a dilemma that will be familiar to anyone who's been a teenage girl and it's a refreshingly realistic portrayal. Understandable considering School 26: Summer of Secrets is developed by the first female owned and run games studio in Canada: Silicon Sisters.
Dealing with such issues is done through a few different gaming tropes. Listening is an important task. Players can read through the problems described by other classmates and then choose how to react via a series of emoticons. No teenage issue is spared here with teenagers' lives, warts and all, bared here. Frequently after a conversation, a card based mini game appears too. This involves matching numbers on tarot cards, either by gaining the highest/lowest score or by cementing relationships between two characters by having the same numbers. It's a simple affair but that's because School 26: Summer of Secrets is aimed at those after an interesting story rather than in-depth gameplay. Twitch gamers need not apply. This is much more of an adventure game with gossip.
School 26: Summer of Secrets, much like its predecessor, is a pretty special idea compared to anything else on the App Store. For this very reason, it's an acquired taste aimed at a specific audience. For the pre-teen and teen audience however, this is ideal. Bringing up difficult issues just makes it all the more appropriate.