Project Rub
| Project Rub

At one level, a touchscreen girlfriend simulator seems like the sort of game to have large parts of society up in arms. If violent game makes kids violent, what's going to be the effect of being able to prod and probe a bikini-clad lovely with our stylus?

But don't fear. Despite its saucy potential, Project Rub isn't about touching the parts other games don't reach. No, harking back to more innocent times, it's about winning the hand of a lady by impressing her with feats of valour and skill. Of course, this being a game, and a Japanese game from the team behind the Sonic series at that, there are plenty of strange twists and scenarios to try and give some background to the tasks you have to carry out.

For example, you're going to give your crush a prety goldfish, only to have someone bump into you and end up swallowing the fish by mistake! It's up to you, the love-struck boy, to rub the fish, turtles and other assorted creatures up from the person's stomach into their gullet with your stylus so they can vomit them out and person and fish be saved. If you fail, the poor animals go down the other way...

Oh no! A huge candles are falling from the sky. Blow into the DS microphone to extinguish the flames before you and your friends - the bunny-ear-wearing super performance group the Rub Rabbits, are burnt to a crisp.

What's that? A van full of scorpions has crashed and they are starting to crawl up your beloved's back. Stop them before they make it to her skin, but make sure you don't miss and touch her by mistake. You're not that intimate yet.

So the bizarre list goes on. Runaway bulls, graffiti hearts, bowling over a queue of people waiting for the bus, and that's before you have to deal with your nemesis, the mohican-haired bully who steals your girl, forcing you to give chase in your truck which is fitted with a large catapult you use to fire pedestrians at the bad guy. Mad? Project Rub is as hopping as a box of three-legged kittens on pogo sticks.

More importantly though, is the funny game actually fun? Alas, this is the only point at which Project Rub doesn't succeed. In terms of presentation, the colourful 2D block graphics and cartoon-style animations are fantastic and well matched by the J-pop music. The Story mode is brilliantly put together with little intros as well as a neat method for progression to the next level without getting 100 percent on each mini-game. And best of all, the mystery girl (for artistic reasons, you never see her face as the characters are shown in silhouette-style form) is great. She wiggles and waggles, sometimes lets you hold her hand and generally encourages you finish one more mini-game so you can unlock another new costume.

The problem is the variety of the games. As is typically the issue with touchscreen mini-games, some are a bit dull, some are too hard (especially when you reprise them in the longer Memories section, where you get to play the mini-games you've completed in the Story mode in any order) to really be much fun once the initial wackiness wears off. And once you have completed them, there doesn't seem to be much point in replaying them - unless for some reason, you literally have fallen in love with your cardboard-cut out girl and want to provide her with the complete wardrobe of accessories.

Which in some ways makes Project Rub a bit of an anti-climax. Stylistically and imaginatively , it's one of the most beautiful DS games out there and it's great at the start, but as with girlfriends in the real world, in the longterm you need a bit more than just looks.

Project Rub is on sale now.

Project Rub

It looks brilliant and is chocked full of zany touchscreen mini-games, but while Project Rub is funny, it's not as fun as it might have been
Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.