Ready for that New Year’s resolution? Besides getting fit and losing weight, ending smoking addictions has become one of the most common ways to quick start the year. This challenging journey now embodies the video game My Stop Smoking Coach with Allen Carr (a.k.a. Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking Method). Yes, many people may want the easy way out of a tough health issue like smoking, but the memorable content and strong results (Carr's Easyway has reportedly cured an estimated 10 million smokers worldwide by clinics and books) proves that the hook gets people in, while the process works very well.
This Nintendo DS exclusive game follows Carr’s method while focusing on the issues and reasoning behind smoking rather than addressing reasons people don’t smoke (bad for health, cost, anti–social, etc.). “I want to see how these people stop smoking,” one non-gaming smoker told me before trying this game. She and her husband are trying to stop for the first time, so she also tried out this game with me.
After creating a detailed profile (up to three) and signing a promise contract, you get to see how six experts quit smoking on a basic level with some more detailed testimonials after certain sections. These selectable experts also act as your guide throughout the process. The experts appear after Mr. Carr’s introduction. You can choose which coach you want among three males and three females. These coaches, along with personal testimonials at the end of game segments, give you a unique insight into this personal journey as well as a nice emotional link from the game to the real world. The game is also customized based on your profile information (e.g. your selected pictures appear in the game at key points).
This game bridges real world connections with a simple stick figure character as well as the antagonistic little nicotine monster in a flip notebook visual format that uses both console screens. Just when you think the game might be too 'thin', the impact hits. Even as a non-smoking player, this game really entertains with some amazing mini games.
The game establishes emotional points about smoking through the text and visuals, then you get some fast paced challenges and that incorporate the console’s touch capabilities very well. The “cake factory” and “catch-a-pearl” require quick hand and eye coordination and memory skills while the stop smoking message couldn’t be clearer in the more graphic, but cartoonish games like “monster chef” and “the dentist”.
Each mini game features an introduction tutorial video before beginning plus you get a 1-2-3 countdown from the friendly stick figure. We only needed more explanation on “nasty flood”, which requires quick reflexes to soak the nicotine monster and put the water in empty windows instead of just soaking the monster to win the level.
Each mini game also features a cigarette icon in the lower left corner during gameplay. Hit this icon for some in-game help, though you usually get a minor penalty for taking the easy way out (less time, etc.). Some mini games are hard initially, and they’re supposed to be to illustrate how that “little monster” can interfere with your life and good times. “Taxi driver” is probably the best example of this point, plus it ramps up the mental challenge.
The entertaining mini games also have a great impact and leave you wanting more…say 12 games for each of the six coaching experts instead of 12 for the entire game. The mini games are replayable after you play them once, regardless of your score, to unlock them.
Once you complete the game, enjoy viewing the benefits calendar every day for the first week, then weekly for three weeks. This mode is to keep updated progress on the smoking situation. Change the date to see the other benefit calendar segments. “It’s definitely easier to avoid a game than a real stop smoking coach, but we found this game very entertaining and informative,” says the stop smoking couple. “We don’t have to do this, but we want to, plus we can come and go as we like, which is great for our schedule.”
This coaching guide is effective (special recipes), entertaining (mini games) and educational (money saved), but as a game, My Stop Smoking Coach definitely leaves you wanting more mini games. The addition of some short testimonial videos or online/multiplayer modes might also enhance the game. Still, the new non-smoking couple plan to visit Carr’s website in the future for further real life success stories. Happy New Year and all the best success to stop smoking in 2009!
My Stop Smoking Coach is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for tobacco use.