I couldn't see the next textbox here until I hit escape to leave the menu and then I got the rest of the story
The Noodle Within was Mogri's entry into the Hans Stinkman Contest. Plenty of games had fun concepts, but Noodle Within took the cake: You're a cop who gets his brain teleported to a weird noodle world. Most people would be depressed by that, but when life handed this cop lemons, he made lemonade and went lookin' for love. That's right: It's a dating sim!
I love dating sims. They're one of the purest forms of RPG. You build stats, you make choices, and you see how the story unfolds. A lot of times they get bogged down in sleaziness, and.. well I like sleaziness too. I'm not gonna lie. But there's a time and a place for it, and I love it when a dating sim realizes you don't need the sex angle to be a good game. The Noodle Within should be a perfect example of that. It's a goofy story and I'd love to see how it turns out, but the gameplay itself is broken. Probably because it was a contest game. God damn contests.
Noodle Within is a menu-based dating sim. It follows a pattern I've seen before in which the main character has three stats: Strength, Intelligence and Charm, with a fourth quasi-stat being Money and a fifth Energy stat being in there to keep you from doing everything at once. Continuing the pattern I've seen before, each of the stats has a location and at that location you can train that stat or utilize that stat and energy to make money. For instance, at the gym you stack weights which requires you to be strong, at the library you sort books which requires a certain level of intellect, etc.
Different girls go for different sorts of guys so, to paraphrase Taylor Swift, you find out what kind of guy the girl wants and then be that guy for a little bit. It gives you two phases of game: the discovery phase, where you find out what your next relationship goal is, the training phase where you get the money or stats you need to attain that goal, and then a quasi-phase where you get the chunk of story to reward you for your efforts and keep you hooked enough to repeat the process.
Of course, winning girls isn't all about being a hunky nerd with limitless charm. You also have to know the right thing to say. Each girl has a personality and has trivia questions you'll need to know the answer to. What's her favorite kind of music, favorite flower, when's her birthday sometimes, etc. In this way you take the game beyond merely stats and make the player have to think about the girl (or find a sheet of paper and pencil) as more than just a gate to be opened with Strength. That actually sounds really bad, don't ever try to open a girl with Strength.
At any rate, that's how most dating sims do it and Noodle Within doesn't go too far off the reservation. The menus are nice, the premise is there, the music is dope (techno-remixes of old RPG songs and maybe some original hip-hop?) but the game is bugged and very frustrating to actually try to play.
Let's take the most basic challenge in the game: Knowing the girl's name. When you meet a girl for the first time, you see the shape of her noodle and get her name. You already had her name because you chose "Meet Linguine" on the menu to do it, but I digress. The next time you meet her, she barely remembers your name and you're challenged to choose hers from the menu. Minding that you already choose "Meet Linguine" on the main menu to instigate this process and saw her name in the textbox where she greeted you. This isn't a hard question, I'm sure I didn't get it wrong. You choose "Hello, Linguine!" and she responds: "Oh, I'm sorry, my name is Linguine".. that's what I said you crazy noodle! If this basic level is broken, what's the tougher stuff gonna be like? I can't answer 'cause I didn't get that far.
Another frustrating thing about the game is time. Each place of business has very specific hours and if they're about to close you obviously can't turn in a full day's work there. Because there's also an energy requirement, it's easy to get into a trap where you don't have enough energy to do anything, but by the time you've rested no place is open and you've gotta "Wait" somewhere forever. I would've gone for either the time limitation or the energy limitation, but not both. It makes it too restrictive. Plus, the game doesn't remember where your cursor was so for every half-hour you want to wait, you have to hit up 3 or 4 times to get back to that option. Mouse support might've been an advantage.
Plus, that's already one of the roughest parts of the game. Almost every menu option I choose tells me some reason I can't do it. Not enough energy, not the right time of day, I've already done it once today, I'm not tired enough to rest, etc. This is a menu based game, it's really easy to enable and disable options. Why do I have the option to try something I can't do? The game could still communicate the limitation but it could do it in aw ay that doesn't feel like you're getting your hand slapped 5 times before you actually stumble on something you're allowed to do.
I mentioned how the girls don't recognize their own names, but the descriptions for other things don't always match up either, the gym gives you the right stats for stacking weights, but says you were sorting returns at the library.
It's a very frustrating experience because the basic look of the game is right. The menus are nice, the aesthetic is awesome and the story is quirky but it's ultimately too broken to be enjoyable and because it's a contest game it's unlikely to ever be fixed. If you're going to make an OHR Dating Sim (And I hope that you are) I would suggest looking at Noodle Within as a great example to steal ideas from. Even though the game is broken is still feels good and all of the basic ideas are there: they just don't always work.