Review by Amakusa42

"Sleep? Who needs sleep?"

I am being awfully stingy in this review. Someone mailed me recently and said: Hey you never rate a game below 6! Well, to tell you the truth, I do rate games below 6, but the ones I have rated below 6 (Name Extreme Skydiving, Extreme Bull riding, and Extreme Paintball), are so abysmally terrible, so outright horrible, so filled with crapness and suckitude, that they don't deserve a review.

So in reviewing Back and White, I am going to take the road less traveled and give it a SERIOUS once over. I'll pick at every flaw, gnaw at every detail, and chew up all the failings.

You know what? I still HAVE to give it a 9, the game is that good. Lets start from the beginning:

The Good

Where to start? Okay, lets go with interface. The B&W game designers were faced with the unenviable task of creating a system that lest you act like a god, with out all those horrible keyboard buttons to push. They did it. You can play the whole damn game with just the mouse and nothing else.

Left Mouse controls all of you're movement. To move around Click and hold the ground and move in a direction with the mouse. Tilt the camera down with the same button by click and holding on the extreme top or bottom of the screen. Or you can rotate the view by click an holding on the extreme left or right of the screen. Still not impressed? You can zoom in or out by holding down BOTH mouse buttons and moving the mouse forward or backward. Oh, and you can zoom REALLY far. You can zoom so far away, that you cant even see you're creature, and you can zoom so close, you can see the flaws in the land due to you're out of date Voodoo 3 2000 (hey, I am broke, okay?)

Right mouse controls ALL forms of interactivity. Tap it to break a rock in half, chase people out of thier house, or use a one shot miracle. Hold it to pick things up, like people, trees, animals, ect. You can also use it to pick up logs of wood for you're people or grain from the fields. In this case, the longer you hold the button, the more you pick up (to a maximum of 20,000 units). You can also throw stuff by picking it up, then moving the mouse in a direction while pressing the mouse button again. This a great way to impress the heck out of Villagers... Provided you don't smash their houses as you do it.

The gesture system is quite cool, and adds a feeling of real power in the game. Simply put, you activate miracles by moving the mouse in a specific pattern on screen. You're onscreen hand mimics the gesture, and Boom! Miracle accomplished. If you actually invested in a force feedback mouse, the game makes use of that, by allowing you to feel the power build up as the miracle activates. I tried this at my friends house (who seems to think peripherals are cooler on the PC than on a console), and was amazed as to how much it adds to the game. This is even cooler in Land 2 where you villagers may not have worshipped you enough to activate the miracle, and the power build up is SLOW.

Graphics are top notch, even on an older card like mine. Little details like birds flying, ripples in the water, and power buildup is represented nicely. The only things that have minimal detail are the villagers, and even they have recognizable details. Consider that you can almost zoom out into space, and then all the way back down to villager level, without even a hint of slowdown, even on an older card, like mine.

I wont spoil the gameplay too much, only that just the first board can take you hours before you WANT to progress. Just to try all the cool stuff. Also, since you can CHOOSE what kind of god you wish to be, you quite literally have to play thru twice to see how the game progresses.

An example from Land 1:

A villager has one of 3 Sacred Gate Stones you need. She promises to give it to you if you rescue her sick brother who has wandered off. In typical god fashion, I snatched him up, carried him back to his sister, and took my reward.

My friend, playing thru the same quest, pick up a large rock and threw it at her house until in fell to pieces. The woman begged him to stop, then put the stone outside for him to retrieve. She still begged my friend to rescue her brother. So he promptly pick him up and threw him into the ocean. Needless to say, this wasn't too well liked by the villagers.

How you act defines some of the looks of the game. Every set of worshippers build you a temple. How you act towards the worshippers defines the look of the temple. So if you act nice, the temple has a cool Rainbow over and Doves fly around it. If your an evil SOB, bats circle around it, its covered with a dark raincloud, and there are spikes decorating it.... Lots of them. IMHO, the Evil looks nicer, but its more rewarding to be good.

Sound is also great, with sound effects taken into consideration as to where you are placed in the land. In one quest, I zoomed in on a series of stones that played music. With my Hand in the middle I was only able to see 4 of the stones, and the surround effect of the others played around me! Use this game to justify that Unnecessarily Large Speaker Surround System you purchased. This game does sound as well as Thief 2!

You can also base the game local according to the weather you are experiencing yourself! I turned on this cool feature while it was raining outside my house, and amazingly enough it rained in the game for the duration of the storm outside my house! Way cool!

Not only that, but you can use Outlook or AOL to name the villagers in the game. They will be named after people in you're address box, and if you receive mail while you are online and playing, the villager named after the person you got mail from gives it to you're creature, who reads it to you! Granted its a text bubble, but thats an amazing feature to have in the game.

No discussion of B&W would be complete without mention of you're creature. He is your Avatar. Trained by you, to represent you, in the game world. Simply put, the AI on these things is AMAZING, and downright realistic. If I wasn't being so anal about detail, I'd give this a 10 on just the merits of the creature AI.

At the beginning, you have only a choice of 3: An Ape (my choice, I'll get to that in a moment), a Tiger (The usual favorite), and a Cow (Evil players tend to pick this, no I am not kidding, what could be a better symbol of evil than a Mad Cow?). The damn things are ALL cute, and make picking them a task in of itself. I wanted them all, and to heck with the training time it would have taken. They are that realistic.

Once you have chosen you're creature, you go about training it. This is done by Petting it (use the right mouse button, and move up and down slowly, this makes the creature happy), Slapping it (use the right mouse button, then move the mouse rapidly left or right, this causes unhappiness, but tells the creature you don't like that action he just did), and using Leashes. You see, you have three leashes: The Leash of Learning, the Leash of Aggression, and the Leash of Compassion.

The Leash of Learning is the one you will use most, and it is the most valuable. Any action you undertake while attached to this creature will be learned, then slowly mimiced by him. In Land 1, for example, you can use this Leash to train you're creature to cast miracles before you can! I taught mine to create food, water, strengthen himself, heal himself, and heal others before I even moved unto Land 2! It looks like an ordinary rope.

The Leash of Aggression is what you attach to you're creature to make him mad (Evil God wannabees, please take note). With this one, and a focus, he will eat villagers, smash houses, and even cast harmful miracles. Do try and use this SPARINGLY around you're own villagers, though. It looks like a leash with spikes on it.

Finally, the Leash of Compassion is useful for a lot of things. It makes you're creature pick up humans without harming them (Unless you trained him to eat them with the leash on). Allows him to do nice things, like create food, wood, water, ect, for you're humble worshippers. Its fuzzy, and changes colors.

I chose the Ape because it learns quickly. Its actually the easiest to train of the 3 you can choose. The Cow is hard to train, but gentle and tends to help people a lot. The Tiger is also harder to train, but is vicious and perfect for an evil god. The problem is all of these monsters are cute.

My friend wanted to pick the Tiger, but when he Highlighted him, the Cow started to whimper and cry (The Ape whistled as if to say: ''Look at me! I am better!''). My friend felt sorry for it and selected him. I have yet to let him live down that fact. Though, his evil cow is a Nasty Bugger in a fight, Monkeyboy (my Ape's nickname) has yet to lose to him.

The inside of you're temple is devoted to a number of features. So many I will only give them brief mentions.

Save/Load Game Room - Load and Save the game.

Library - Description of Signposts in the land you have read and contains general knowlage about the game world.

Challenge Room - Contains info about the quests you have started, finished, and have yet to complete.

Creature Cave - Contains info about you're creature, including his personality, likes/dislikes, miracles has has learned or is learning, how aggressive he is, what he believes about you, and the ability to Tattoo him. As a side note, you can create you're own tattoo's and import them into the game!

Options Room - Define settings, controls, ect.

Future Room - Unknown. Probably an in game patch service or something. Everytime I come it here it says: ''The Future is Still Uncertain.''

And multiplayer! There are 2 Types: Co-op and Deathmatch. Both basically consist of you, or you and your partner (And creatures, of course), beating up the other guys, stealing their followers, robbing them of villages, and generally making them have a bad day. As a side note, most people train a Tiger for online play.

Amazing isn't it? All this detail, and no problems? Well, not really...

The Bad
First there are the villigers themselves. They seem to be carbon copies of one another, with a few model exceptions. In fact, in the first land, there appears to be only 6 unique model types: A Hippie, a Old grouchy man, a sailor, you're creature trainer, and Male and Female Villagers of both the Neutral and Aztec tribes. Its a bit of a disappointment that there are lackluster villager models, and such excellent details on everything else.

There are some missing features that were promised and others that should have been easier to implement. The email in the game, as an example. I have Outlook, but it still took me 4 tries to get it right. Plus, it doesn't work with Outlook Express, which the majority of people who have Outlook upgrade to.

A missing feature in the game is the ability to play you're own music during the game. This was promised during the pre-release hype, but so far, I dont know how to implement it. I know from poking around the .sad files that B&W use for speech that it can be done, but there is no documentation for it. Something is missing a when you cant play Crush 'Em by Megadeath while you're creature lays the smackdown on some puny other creature. Plus, although my creature has learned to Dance, I can't make him do it on my own, since I can't find any way to play dance music.

The Ugly
On my computer, this game crashes every time I try to enter the portal that exits Land 1. This is a Personal gripe, I'll grant you that. Still, its an annoyance. Especially since I have left Land 1 in ANOTHER game. I sent an email to tech support, who sent me the wrong reply back, and then sent me an email telling me they sent the wrong reply back. Like I didn't know that already. If I can't get off Land 1, I might as well take the game back!

--------------------------------------------

Graphics - 9.
+ Huge detail on practically everything, even with low end computers!
- Except the Villagers, who are little more than carbon copies of each other.

Sound/Music - 9.
+ Brilliant use of surround sound and environmental effects!
- And no use of you're own music Cd's, as was promised.

Controls - 10.
+ Spot on. Everything can be done with a mouse, and and you COULD use the keyboard too. You can define the Keyboard controls if you want.

Playability - 10.
+ Hours of fun. Its actually rewarding to help people, and satisfying to lay the smackdown on villagers who make you mad. You train your own creature to act as you see fit.

Replayability - 10.
+ Aside from being evil or good the 2nd time around, there are more creatures to train! Plus multiplayer!
- Uhhhh... I do have a girlfriend right? Oh wait I did. The SHE started playing Black and White.

Overall - 9.
- Buy this RIGHT NOW. Dont read anymore, just do it!

Amakusa slapped Monkeyboy around for only smashing TWO buildings. I highlighted THREE! Get it right! Now eat some Villagers!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/06/01, Updated 04/06/01


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