Thursday, 18 April 2013

Black and White: Find out which of 2 possible people you REALLY are

So Black and White then. Not a game I've been looking forward to particularly. It poses a lot of problems, both personal and practical and I'm not sure how it'll pan out just yet. Firstly, I got a bit sick of it when it first came out. It's lengthy unskippable tutorial, and laboured, hand-holding opening hour really didn't hold up to replays. It's also one of those games where the choices are so 'black and white' that it's easy to make sure you pick the 'right' one depending on your intended play-style. There's no chance you'll do something assuming it was good but find out it was actually evil. The other big issue is how I should calculate failure. As a God I can't die, and I don't remember ever reaching a point where my village exploded or anything. Can your creature die? That might be a good measure. Anyway, let's see how I got on...

First things first, the intro video is excellent - A prayer flies up out through space piercing a hole between dimensions, creating a new God, and then we follow his roaring, careering path through many dimensions and then bursting into our universe, galaxy, solar system and finally atmosphere. It's done in such style that the low resolution isn't really an issue and it still packs a punch.

After rescuing a small boy from sharks we finally gain control and start to learn how to move around the world - left click and drag to pull yourself along like a giant gutshot policeman, move your mouse to a specific point on the screen and drag to rotate, move your mouse to another very similar point to tilt up and down. I generally just double-click to move to a point in space, it seems to be the easiest thing. Movement is a pain, and I remember it being at the time. Cutscene's constantly change your camera's height and tilt and don't reset them, adding to the pain.

The next thing we do is help our villagers finish the temple. Pick up wood with the right mouse and drop it at the temple.

Then we go into the temple and find rooms like the 'Save Game' room. A bit of ludonarrative dissonance* that reminds you that your temple is basically a menu system, and an awkward and slow one at that.

Next we need to find 3 gatestones so we can pick our magical creature.

The first one is just a practice in picking things up and carrying them. The second one is in a house and presents you with your first transparent 'choice' - save the inhabitant's dying husband, who's wandered off, or smash the house in. I'm only interested in completion so I smash the house. It's a pain in the bum. I throw massive boulders at it, but finding the boulder and picking it up for a second throw takes so long that some friendly villagers have repaired most of the damage :/ It gets done eventually though. The stone takes up most of her house, she should be thanking me for moving it.
The third was lost aeons ago, but luckily the town sculptor can knock one up in seconds if you find him a stone (more carrying).

TA DA! I'm in to the sacred area where I get to choose my creature. This is one of the big parts of the game. Like many 'innovative' games Black and White is a game crowbarred around an idea rather than a game which has nice ideas in it. Spore was a creature creator, and then a crappy game was added on top, The Movies was a mini film-maker with a rather normal management sim attached. This idea of controlling a creature, training it, punishing it and having it do your bidding is where Black and White started, and everything else is just padding to allow you to do that.

I have three choices - Tiger, Cow, Gorilla. I always used to choose the gorilla, but this time it's tiger all the way, I just want something that can eat things, claw people and get this game over with.

He does a dance and appears at my temple, and then it's time to log off. Will I find a way to die? Will I fall in love with my tiger? Will I care enough to remember any of it for my write-up? The future is cloudy...

*Thanks SimianB


  1. Yay, you guys are back! Black and White was a great game in concept, I remember reading about it before it came out and getting ridiculously excited. But in practice it was a bit of a dogs breakfast.

    I'd love someone to take the same formula and refine it into a good game, there are hardly any decent god games around any more.

  2. Don't worry man, we ain't going anywhere! (coming from the writer who is most overdue on his playthroughs)