Picture Perfect Puzzle Palace
“Welcome to My Story – Mansion Makeover, where all your dreams come true!” reads the opening promise made by one ZenLife Games, a dev studio specializing in relaxing puzzle games. A lofty claim to be sure, but if your dream is to live in a mansion you can decorate to your heart’s content, who knows? For in that zen of devs, what dreams may come?
In My Story you play as a young woman fed up with the hustle and bustle of late-stage capitalism; she’s grown tired of soaking her feet and icing her back every night. That all suddenly changes when she receives news of her aunt’s passing. No time to grieve, that old biddy left you a mansion! Things only get better, as you discover the house comes with not only a butler, but a housecat too! Unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately–your new mansion appears to be fairly rundown, so you get to redecorate every room to your taste. From there, relationships develop and secrets arise in droves. Is there anything this mansion can’t do?
As far as the zen aspect of this goes, there is something to be said about decorating games having a very soothing quality to them. However, everyone knows the most important factor in creating a relaxing experience is the music. In this respect, I believe My Story has failed utterly. It offers a simple composition consisting of sparse woodwinds and violins meant to conjure a grandiose aura. What’s more, it’s clear the track is only just long enough to cover the opening scene. After which, it loops indefinitely and quickly begins grating on my very soul. There’s something about the tempo that’s just slightly too slow. It’s enough to drive a man to madness.
The only respite from the straggling strings were the puzzles themselves. My Story is split into two phases of gameplay: decoration segments and puzzle segments, with some visual novel segments in-between to progress the story. At first glance the puzzles appear to be your standard match-three tile puzzles. That said, My Story builds on this stale genre by layering handfuls of unique elements that add dimensions of complexity to an otherwise trite format.
These additions are refreshing at first, forcing the player to think out their moves more carefully, but grow in scope and difficulty far too quickly. By the fourth in-game day out of 25, I was spending entire real-life days on a single puzzle while my mansion collected dust!
Wistful Wish Fulfillment Fantasy
Herein lies the folly of My Story – Mansion Makeover. It’s escapist fantasy that makes you work too hard. It’s a relaxing zen experience that’s stressful to complete! Frankly, it’s not even particularly good escapism. My Story steeps its entire premise in the naive American fantasy of a magical inheritance earning you luxury, freedom from labor, a castle with infinite rooms and a butler that works for free.
Of course, at the end of the day it’s all a farce. The difficulty of the puzzle segments is exponentially inflated to drive the player to purchase items that make them easier. Thus, the player never gets to live out the fantasy without paying through the nose or slaving away for a taste. It hides the promise of all your needs and wants being met behind an artificial barrier of inane, tiresome and meaningless busywork. In the end, this supposedly zen game is nothing more than a cruel reflection of the very reality one wishes to escape from.
To sum up, My Story is just not worth your time. Its gameplay ultimately moves too hard too fast for its casual premise. The furniture isn’t even pretty. Everything is either ridiculously ornate to the point of gaudy or just depressingly minimalistic. The story is a non-factor due to the manufactured stall on day four. My Story seems content with smothering everything that makes it interesting. The worst offence of all being the fact that if ZenLife hadn’t gotten greedy, this could’ve been a genuinely engaging take on the washed-up match-three genre.
Is it Hardcore?
Too hard in all the wrong places.
My Story – Mansion Makeover is a cold reminder that even the most pleasant and innocent-looking romps might only be out for your money. Don’t be fooled by her sweet talk. She’s a gold digger.