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Mac Game Review: Black & White

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When is a game not a game? When it’s Black & White – at least at the beginning of play. The game is a bit free flowing which is difficult for those used to linear (or almost linear) games.

For the most part you spend most of the first few hours of play stumbling around trying to figure out what to do. Sticking with it can be rewarding but it requires patience and time. A pick-up game or one with near instant gratification, this isn’t.

Lionhead has produced, on the right machine (I used an eMac 700mhz with 340 MB RAM.), a stunning game that is a wonder to look at. Non-gamers walking behind you will just stop and stare at the stunning vistas on the screen before them.

The detail is this game is absolutely amazing graphically – it’s a triumph. After initial problems with stability, I found Black & White to be very stable and able to tick along nicely. There were no places where the game stumbled or twitched. The cut-scenes flow nicely and they are relatively well synced.

The trouble with this game is the game play. Many people would argue that there really isn’t any to speak of, especially when you first start the game. One of the challenges is quite literally learning how to throw a stone at a stone tower.

Alas, because of the game’s dynamics this is a lot harder than it should be. The interface and controls on this game take quite a while to get used to and can be bloody frustrating at times. There are quite a few places where one needs to do something intricate and the hand that you play can be hard to manipulate. The fact that the second button on the mouse refused to work with this game did not help either.

The basic gist is that you play a god who controls an island and may “do with it what thou whilst.” You may be good, evil or neutral. Everything you do affects everything in the game. It is a wonderful concept that looks good on paper but just does not quite work as a game in practice. Town and building management can be rather tedious and only those who cherish micro-management will enjoy it.

Documentation on Black & White is frankly appalling, the designers expect you to explore to find out all you need to know. This does not work very well, and the signposts that dot the landscape and are suppose to be of aid, aren’t really.

There are scrolls as well that set your quests and give you goals. They work to a certain extent but the game could use more of them. One of the major problems with the game is that it’s not rewarding enough for most gamers. It is entirely possible to set up your first town in such a way that you don’t actually need to do a damn thing.

This is all right for a game like The Sims (which Black & White reminded me of much of the time), but not that good for this type of god game. It is unfortunate that your pet does not show up until sooner in the game.

It would have been nice to be able to get more used to the intricacies of his usage (and its intricate alright) before having to go off on quests with him. He is a cute addition to the game, but for the most part does not add much to it. Yeah it’s fun to take yours and beat up other god’s monsters (in solo or multiplayer) but it’s not that fun. The controls on the monster’s fighting feel like a very bad shareware fighting game.

Black & White is good for a laugh at times, especially when you have a large cow on two legs waddling around your town. It will hold your attention for six or seven hours until it gets boring. Of course, there are some gamers who will just love the laid back pace of this game, the graphics and the odd concept of it.

There is an add-on called Creature Isle which adds new challengers for you creature. There are people who love this game, however I have yet to find one who will admit to it. I have spoken to many gamers from both PC and Mac, most of them echoed exactly what I said above. Not one of them is still playing it either.

I made an effort to talk to gamers with a wide range of tastes. Black & White seems to satisfy no one, whether they be strategy types, sim types, RTS or action fans. It is the type of game that is fun once or twice but has very limited re-playability.

In the end, Molyneux tried to do too much with Black & White and actually didn’t do much (besides the graphics) very well. Black & White is not a horrible game by any standard, it just could have been a whole lot more. What is the point of a game that leaves out the fun?

Black and White is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief. This game can also be found on: PC.

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About Marty Dodge

  • I found it to be a great idea with a whole lot of potential.

    The concept was fun, the creature was cool. The scripting and user interface (lack thereof?) and controls killed it for me, though. If you lasted 6 or 7 hours, you beat me by over 3… the controls were so bad that I couldn’t even stick with it.

    I’d love to see a sequel with some decent control or at least some options as to how it’s controlled (keyboard commands, anyone??)

  • InMarin

    I couldn’t disagree more. This game is fascinating both in concept and gameplay.

    The idea was to create an interface with no on-screen controls. That hand you control is actually amazingly powerful – especially on a PC; right-click performs many tasks that are essential.

    “It is entirely possible to set up your first town in such a way that you don?t actually need to do a damn thing.”

    “(The Creature) is a cute addition to the game, but for the most part does not add much to it.”

    I think you’ve missed the point here. Level 1 is supposed to be spent training your “pet” to perform tasks, like gathering resources, performing miracles that will be used later to impress other villages, etc.

    I’ve played this game for hours and hours and can’t wait for B&W2.

    There are people who love this game, however I have yet to find one who will admit to it.”

    You’ve found one.