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Jane Austen

GAME REVIEW: Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale

GAME REVIEW: Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale

I was pruning my hard drive when I stumbled across a game labelled Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale.

I somehow forgot I bought this game last year. Since I was in the mood for a game set in Jane Austen’s fictional universe, I was all for it. Even when I discovered it’s not an adventure game, but a RPG (role-playing game) or strategy game. I hadn’t played this type of game before but hey, it’s Jane Austen. So I was willing to try.

Right off the bat, the game opens with a tutorial to explain that you’re the heroine in the world of Pride and Prejudice – which includes some elements from other two Austen novels: Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility – and your actions will determine your matrimonial path, and blah blah blah. I was impatient enough to leap over the rest of tutorials into the game.

A big mistake.

Because I somehow ended up marrying someone I didn’t expect to marry. To say that my jaw was on the floor would be the understatement of this century. I’d expected to marry Mr. Darcy himself. Oh no, Matches and Matrimony won’t make it that easy for the likes of me. Well chastened, I went back to the game’s tutorials and dutifully read all before trying again.

Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale is essentially a dating sim that revolves around your decisions in how you would pick an activity for each day of your five-day week — depending on your path, there are potentially fourteen weeks in total per game — and how some characters who might like you more or less, based on your responses. And this would affect the percentage of your sum and subsequently influence your matrimonial path.

Each activity has points, plus or minus, for each of nine characteristic traits: Willpower, Wit, Talent, Kindness, Propriety, Sensibility and Energy.

If you select ‘Go Visiting’ for one day of your week, it’ll increase Kindness (+6) and Propriety (+4), and decrease Energy (-10). And ‘Read a Book’ for another day, which would increase Wit and Sensibility while decreasing Willpower. ‘Rest’ for one day would mean Energy 40+ alone.

Note: sometimes it’d reverse unexpectedly. When you might expect more points for certain traits, it’d go in the opposite direction and decrease those much-needed points. (I later figured out why that happened, so you’ll probably figure out yourself, too.)

At the first try, I had no strategy – none whatsoever – so I randomly clicked on an activity for each day and hoped for the best. Oh, I did have a bit of a strategy: I’d made sure that I was nice to everyone. Never rude or confrontational. Good manners, always.

And that, readers, is how I ended up with that dreadfully dull cousin, Mr. Collins, as my husband.

Oh, the horror.

So, how you choose activities for your heroine each week does affect your path. Sometimes, crazily so. Likewise with your interactions with various characters throughout the story as their reactions will influence your path, positively or negatively.

To begin with, you get to name the heroine – clearly based on Elizabeth Bennet – however you like. I found this rather disconcerting, to be honest. I mean, ‘Fia Bennet’ doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

I did later have fun by naming my heroine after my baby brother, ‘Alasdair Bennet’, though. Pretty immature, but so fun.

While most characters are from Austen’s fictional universe, the details of some characters are different. Such as Mr. Wickham, from Pride and Prejudice, is renamed as Mr. Wickeby for this game, but everything he says and does in this game resembles those of Mr. Willioughby from Sense and Sensibility. Mr. Bingley’s first name went from Charles to Edward. For a while, I didn’t notice this change until I vaguely remembered that Edward is from Sense and Sensibility and that his surname is Ferrars. It explains why Mr. Bingley seems a combination of Charles Bingley and Edward Ferrars. I don’t think there are any more significant changes. Not as far as I can recall, anyroad.

Well, not all characters from Pride and Prejudice appear in this game. Younger Bennet sisters – Mary and Kitty – don’t show up. So, along with the Bennet parents, it’s just Elizabeth (you), Jane and Lydia (who’s renamed Lydianne for this game).

Did all those changes mess with my head? Yup. I think the game designers did it to make the game unpredictable for various paths to the nine possible endings.

 

In other words, what you know about Austen’s novels may work against you.

My sketchy recollections of the novels had clearly worked against me because I kept marrying the wrong suitors, from Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) to Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), or ending up alone as “an old maid”. I mean, I was left pretty nonplussed when I somehow managed to marry Mr. Bingley as well. And that cad, Mr. Wickesy (a.k.a. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice and Williboughy from Sense and Sensibility). I also ended up being well liked by the dreadful Bingley sisters and thoroughly disliked by my supposedly best friend, Charlotte.

The competitive cow in me was annoyed enough to replay the game to correct all that as well as to achieve the ultimate goal: marry Mr. Darcy.

Although the game itself was easy to master, finding the Darcy route wasn’t that easy. In fact, it was so challenging that I ended up playing the game repeatedly for a couple of hours, trying every possible route.

If you play this game just right, you’ll be involved with all main key plot points of Pride and Prejudice including the awesome confrontation with a certain snobbish Lady and the famous first proposal scene with Darcy and Elizabeth (you).

I oddly felt thrilled whenever the red line in Darcy’s ‘attachment’ bar increased. He likes me, he likes me! And I let out a little cheer when I finally married him. I admit I did feel a little pathetic afterwards but hey, I nabbed that surprisingly elusive bloke.

 I don’t think I’d have enjoyed replaying the game so much if it wasn’t for the game’s Skip function, though. This function allows you to speed through all dialogues and scenes you’d already seen until a new dialogue line or scene appears.

So you can replay the game until you reach your chosen ending.  I read somewhere online that three endings involve Darcy, but I had managed to reach just six out of the nine endings so there are two more Darcy endings I haven’t tried yet. Gah. At least it shows that this game’s replayability value is pretty high.

The game also has an option to save a spot any time throughout the game, up to 10 slots. And believe me, readers, you will definitely need this option.

Because when you realise you don’t like where your path is heading, you can’t return to change your selection of activities for that week. Once you’ve made your choices, your path is determined. So each time your heroine says “Now is probably the best time to save your game” before you could make your selection of activities, do it! You can save a game over a previous save when you run out of the save slots.

The game’s options page is pretty basic as it has functions for you to control the Music and Sound Volume, ‘After choices’ (stop skipping or keep skipping), Display (full screen or windowed mode), and Text Speed.

Also, bundled with the game are Austen’s full novels: Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, that you can read within the game.

And of course, it has information guides (mostly to explain each character trait) and character profiles.

While it’d grown on me during the game, I found the general art rather frustrating. This sort doesn’t usually bother me, but since we  see the background art repeatedly throughout a game? And when we see Darcy’s supposedly magnificent home? It can make one wish the game makers had invested in a better artist.

Some dialogue exchanges – especially the ones involving Mr. Collins - were a tad long-winded. I did wonder if this was intentional, though. Occasionally, some parts felt repetitive but I can’t tell if it was due to my impatience or the pacing of the game itself.

It’s quite a short game, too. Perhaps between twenty to forty minutes per game, I’d say? Well, it depends on each path. The ‘best’ path lasts roughly fifty minutes while each of ‘bad’ paths varies between twenty to thirty minutes. The shortest – and the worst – path is the Mr. Collins route, which typically lasts twenty minutes. Of course, it also depends on your pacing preference. I’m a speedy gamer, so it was a quick play each time. Well, except for that damn Darcy route.

And I really don’t understand why the game creators set Jane Austen’s novels in “Victorian times” (see left for the ‘TALENT’ screenshot). I don’t know much about period costumes, but I’m pretty sure some background characters are wearing 1880s-era clothes and hats, too.

Anyhow, the competitive cow in me quite enjoyed playing the game repeatedly so it deserves a B from me.

Suitable for all ages and ideal for players who are looking for a fun dating sim. Also for those who like simple RPGs with a bit of a challenge. Some parts of the game might have Austen purists twitching, but Matches and Matrimony: A Pride and Prejudice Tale is honestly a gentle fun and sweet-natured game.

Available in Windows and Mac at all major online retail stores including Big Fish Games ($2.99), Amazon US/UK/etc. ($6.99) and iWin ($6.95).

REVIEW: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

REVIEW: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Dear Ms. Austen,

I will confess right off the bat that I’m one of those readers who never “got” you. I tried to read Pride and Prejudice years ago, but gave up after a few pages because of your writing style. What can I say – I had less patience in those days with long, indirect sentences which seemed to use 20 words to say what could be easily said in five (hah! I’m one to talk on that score…). I read Emma a few years ago and honestly did not care for it. It wasn’t so much the language this time; it was the fact that there seemed to be about a dozen main characters and only one of them (Mr. Knightley, of course) appeared to not be a complete and utter twit. Emma herself was dumber than a bag of hammers, and every other character seemed to fall somewhere on the continuum between “moron” and “get any stupider and we’ll need to water you twice a week” (to paraphrase the late, great Molly Ivins).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenI don’t really like reading about stupid people, so Emma frustrated me. Nonetheless, I picked up a copy of Sense and Sensibility recently, and though I started reading with some trepidation I soon found myself enchanted with the writing and the characters (though many of them are hardly any sharper than those found in Emma).

Sense and Sensibility, for those readers who don’t know, is the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, sisters who encounter many obstacles on the path to true love. As with Pride and Prejudice, the title Sense and Sensibility is significant. Elinor, the older of the sisters, is ruled by sense – she is not given to great shows of emotion or passion, whereas Marianne, who to be fair is only about 17 during the time the story takes place, thrives on drama and grand expressions of emotion. Elinor is by far the more sympathetic of the sisters for most of the book, though some readers may, I suppose, find her coolness and perfection a bit off-putting. I found her very sympathetic, since as the reader we’re privy to her inner thoughts and realize how hard it is for her to maintain her calm facade at times.

The story opens with the death of Mr. Henry Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne’s father. Soon, their half-brother and his rapacious wife descend on Norland Park, the family’s estate, and take over the place. Mr. Dashwood had hoped to provide well for his second wife and their three daughters (Elinor and Marianne have a younger sister, Margaret), being that his son John was already wealthy from an inheritance from his late mother, as well as from having made a good marriage. But the estate had been passed down to Mr. Dashwood in such a way that he was unable to leave it to anyone but his son John, and so as an alternative he asked John on his deathbed to look after the interests of his stepmother and sisters. This leads to a rather hilarious conversation between John and his wife, in which they gradually whittle down the meaning of the promise John has made:

“Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties if the sum were diminished one half. Five hundred pounds would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!”

“Oh! beyond anything great! What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters, even if really his sisters! And as it is — only half blood! — But you have such a generous spirit!”

Soon they have decided that this “generous spirit” only requires them to help the ladies find a suitable place to move to, and nothing more. In Mrs. John Dashwood’s opinion, the move cannot come too soon, for she is concerned about the connection forming between Elinor and her brother, Edward Ferrars, who is a frequent visitor at Norland. Mr. Ferrars is the eldest son of a wealthy family and his sister and mother have big plans for him that don’t include a quiet, modest non-entity such as Elinor.

Marianne also disapproves of the growing affection between Elinor and Edward, for entirely different reasons: she sees Edward Ferrars as too boring and passionless and cannot understand the attraction that Elinor feels for him. Marianne is not just set on being emotional and dramatic herself; she dislikes and distrusts anyone who does not wear his heart on his sleeve.

Soon the widow Dashwood and her daughters receive an offer from a distant relative for a situation in Devonshire: a comfortable and affordable cottage near the relative’s estate. They leave Norland with some regret (it has been their home for quite a while, after all) and embark on their new life.

Once settled in Devonshire, the Dashwood sisters meet a veritable host of new people, many of them very amusing (your gift for satire really shines in these characterizations, I think): Sir John Middleton, their jolly but rather silly benefactor; his wife, who thinks of nothing but her children, and Mrs. Jennings, the wife’s mother, vulgar and gossipy but with an unexpected heart of gold. They also meet several eligible gentlemen: Colonel Brandon, a friend of Middleton’s who takes an interest in Marianne (an interest not returned because she finds him to be even more of a dry stick than Edward Ferrars) and John Willoughby, a dashing young man who does attract Marianne’s notice.

There’s a lot going on in the plot of Sense and Sensibility; I haven’t even mentioned several major and minor characters (my favorite of which are probably Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, Lady Middleton’s sister and brother-in-law – he is gruff to the point of rudeness, a quality that his silly wife seems to delight in, insisting that he is “droll”). Nor have I really managed to dig very deeply into the plot. Suffice to say that there are a number of twists and turns to Elinor’s and Marianne’s romances; the story eventually moves to London and both sisters suffer a fair amount of heartache before each finds her Mr. Right.

I liked pretty much everything about Sense and Sensibility: the plot, which is intricate without being too convoluted (there are some unlikely coincidences of the sort that make the reader think that there must have only been a few dozen people in Regency England, but I can handle coincidences pretty well in a well written book – what might be unbelievable in a bad book feels symmetrical to me in a good one), the characters, several of whom have unexpected depth – even some of the villains are not entirely without nuance, and the writing, which is the very definition of droll (unlike Mr. Palmer). I loved this bit about Edward Ferrars’ controlling mother, who briefly disowns him:

Her family had of late been exceedingly fluctuating. For many years of her life she had had two sons; but the crime and annihilation of Edward, a few weeks ago, had robbed her of one; the similar annihilation of Robert had left her for a fortnight without any; and now, by the resuscitation of Edward, she had one again.

In spite of his being allowed once more to live, however, he did not feel the continuance of his existence secure, till he had revealed his present engagement; for the publication of that circumstance, he feared might give a sudden turn to his constitution, and carry him off as rapidly as before.

If I have any quibbles or criticisms of the book, it would be a slight sense of apprehension over the resolution of one of the romances (I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling anyone – one of the pleasures of the book for me is that I didn’t know who would end up with who) and an occasional difficulty with the old-fashioned writing, which did feature the same long, indirect sentences that I tended to get lost in and have to reread to understand. Still, I feel such a sense of triumph and pleasure at being able to say that I am an official “Jane Austen fan”. I wonder which of your novels I should pick up next? I feel like I should try Pride and Prejudice again, but I know the story so well from film adaptions that I don’t feel as much of a sense of urgency. I’ve been warned away from Northanger Abbey, which doesn’t seem to be a favorite of even die-hard Austen fans. I’m thinking of either Mansfield Park or Persuasion. In any case, I am eagerly looking forward to reading your works again – no more trepidation for me.

My grade is an A-.

Regards,

Jennie

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