Licensed games always tend to be less accessible than those based on original intellectual property. The barrier to entry is even higher when, as grown men, we must tackle games that are based on television shows designed for young girls. Still, we soldier on in the name of our craft.
Victorious: Time to Shine is based on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious which follows high schooler Tori Vega, who attends a performing arts high school. She is surrounded by a colourful cast of wacky characters, all of which are brought to life in the game with surprisingly accurate character models. The show’s cast have lent their voices to the game as well, lending a welcome dose of authenticity.
As the show is about a performing arts high school, the video game has you putting together performances by doing things like acting, singing and dancing with Tori and her friends. You start off by making a character (as an indicator of just how squarely Victorious is aimed at tween girls, you get an achievement just for making your character a boy) whom you can dress in a variety of ways, with more options unlocked as you progress.
The actual gameplay is rather shallow, but considering the target audience it’s not much of a surprise. There are five songs to choose from, and for each song there are four minigames: acting, music, singing and dancing and then a “music video” performance that has you doing a bit of each. The games are extremely forgiving, and often only vaguely mimicking what is shown on the screen is all you need to do to score a “Victorious!” amount of points.
The acting minigame has you mimicking poses like “be scared!” and “raise your hand!” There’s not much to it, but some of the poses require pretty good balance, especially once they start coming at you with increasing speed. The problem is that your character has very odd skeletal animation, so while you may be matching the pose, your character's limbs will flail about in frightening ways. Oddly enough, the game still scores your pose as accurate.
Next is music, which is really just dancing like you’re holding an instrument, like a guitar or a tambourine. Again, there’s not much to it; if you’ve ever played air guitar in your life (and we're guessing you have) you can get a perfect score.
The singing minigame doesn't make use of a pitch meter; rather, it’s a straightforward “bouncing ball” sing-along style. Like the other minigames, you don’t need to be super accurate. As long as you’re making some kind of noise when the ball hits a word, you’ll score points.
The dancing minigame, oddly enough, isn’t lifted directly from Dance Central, though it would have been better if it had. The cue cards don’t give you much indication as to what the actual move you’re supposed to do looks like, but as long as you loosely follow what the on-screen characters are doing, the game is fine with it.
Once all four games are completed, all of the performances are brought together for a music video that replaces the regular stage background with crazy psychedelic special effects while your in-game tutors act, dance and play instruments off to the side. Your character stands in the middle singing, and arrows will appear over which character you need to mimic. The music video session isn’t scored and just serves as a way to cap off all the work that was put into learning that particular song.
Victorious: Time to Shine is about as shallow as a puddle after a rainstorm, but considering the target audience developer High Voltage can hardly be blamed for it. The game will be a huge hit at slumber parties thanks to its accurate representations of the characters, forgiving minigames and multiplayer modes. If you know anyone who wishes they could attend Hollywood Arts High School (we had to look that up; thanks Wikipedia) the game is a sure hit. For everyone else, though, it’s a pass.