The title of Rockstar Games' soon-to-be-released Grand Theft Auto: Sweet 16 sounds like an oxymoron, but as soon as you pick up the controller, everything starts making sense. The company's last GTA release, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, raised the concerns of parental watchdog groups with its excessive violence, but gamers appreciated the engrossing action, characters and storyline. (Truth be told, it's fun to steal cars and run errands for the Mafia.) Grand Theft Auto: Sweet 16 is considerably less violent -- there aren't any guns -- but surprisingly, it manages to equal the earlier game in entertainment value.
The missions here are very different from the violent bloodbaths of earlier GTA games, but once you enter the teen girl mindset, you'll find they are just as demanding. As you head to the movies to meet your crush, you suddenly realize you're one of six girls racing down the freeway. If you want to share his popcorn, you have to run them all off the road! Don't forget to drop your little brother off at soccer practice once you've knocked out the competition (and check behind the bleachers for a sparkly pink bonus). Instead of collecting mystery packages as in previous games, GTA:S16 challenges you to find all one hundred shades of lip gloss hidden throughout the game. My first time through, I found 68! Pretty impressive, huh?
Strangely enough, GTA:S16's one weakness stems from the game designers' attempts to create a realistic gaming environment. Yes, sixteen year old girls are notoriously bad drivers. But making every vehicle difficult to maneuver creates a very frustrating gameplay experience that isn't remedied until after the drivers' ed school opens (don't bother checking early in the game -- you can't take a driving class until you've completed eight missions.) Once you "learn" to drive, you'll find the cars respond noticeably better to your controls, and the game becomes much more fun from this point on.