Black And White

Argh! This game is going to be a low scorer for all the wrong reasons. You see, I like this game. I like this game a lot. It as a lot to offer. And still…

So where did it all go wrong? Well, it’s the controls. Awful. Just plan awful. To the point of being completely unplayable. The idea seemed to be take a fully open 3D world and layer on top a real-time-strategy god game controlled entirely by the mouse. Everything is based off the left/right, up/down movements of the mouse roller and the click of its two buttons. There are no other controls and everything is entirely context sensitive based on the positioning of your God Hand on the screen.

The main issue is camera and movement. Everything else would work if these were move to the keyboard, and lets face it every PC this game is playing on has a keyboard. Instead I found 90% of my game play involved correct and fighting with camera positioning. Often times finding the view either too zoomed in, or too zoomed out. Rotating the camera is an art form and movement breaks as you hit areas of mountains or open water.

Get past the controls and there is a really good, fun engaging game at the core. You can see and feel the evolution in Peter Molyneux’s career. The roots of Black and White are very much in the Amiga classis Populous series married with the humour and story telling that Fable would bring to later XBox systems.

You control the hand of God. As God you must perform miracles that will provide for your followers. The more followers you gain the greater your godly powers become, the more miracles you can perform, etc. Most of this takes place in a very real time strategy like micro management. Pick up followers and place them in locations to make them experts (forester, builder, farmer, etc). Move wood and food to locations for your followers to pick up. Create water, wood and food out of thin air using miracles.

As I say the core game as a lot to commend it and is laced with that British Humour Molyneux’s games have become known for. It’s just a shame it is all brought to its knees by a control system that is not fit for purpose.


Hidden And Dangerous

This has to be one of the most frustrating gaming experiences I’ve ever had. There’s a core game here that is really, really good and interesting and you want to play and experience. And yet what you have to work with is a nigh on unplayable mess.

The idea is simple, guide your four man SAS team in a mixture or strategy and stealth 3rd person gameplay to complete each given mission. The general style is of that of a classic 3rd person cover shooter but you also get some RTS and 1st person shooter elements thrown in. And here in lays the first issue. The game doesn’t know what it wants to be.

The RTS ideas are the most interesting, and remind me of an old 8-bit (CPC/Spectrum) game called Laser Squad. However it’s very much half baked and it doesn’t take long to realise that when not under your direct control the player characters AI are incredibly dense. Happy to commit suicide, ignore enemies, and do anything other than work as a team. In a three vs one fire fight your three men will die.

Which brings us to the enemy AI which is just plan brutal. Draw distance is of the era crap anyway, but the enemy NPC’s can be less than a pixel high in the distance and be happy to see your guys laying flat and single shot kill them with very high precision accuracy. A game quickly looses it’s charm when your troops can’t shoot for toffee with a high powered machine gun but the enemy can dispatch you at 200m with a single shot from a handgun.

The first mission was to merely cross a guarded bridge. That was it. Kill some guards and cross a bridge. I did it first try on medium difficulty with two of my four man team surviving. However the second level looked a little more complex involving rescuing prisoners and blowing up a depot. Let’s start again on easy, think I, give myself a fighting chance…

Just couldn’t complete level one on easy. Couldn’t cross the bridge without my men diving in to the river, diving under a train, or throwing themselves at enemy bullets without bothering to return fire. Three hours of move, save, move, die, load, move, die, load, move, save, die, load, move, save, etc. And I’ve two surviving men at the end of the bridge. One man dies, god knows how, the other throws himself under a passing train.