Sorta like the Sims, except with higher system requirements, funny animals, and no fun.
Why does the world worship Peter Molyneux? Can you think of anyone who said something like, "Wow, Dungeon Keeper, now that was a great game" 4 months after Dungeon Keeper was released? How many times can people buy a new version of Populous and still think it’s innovative?
Okay, maybe that’s slightly unfair. After all, all the reviewers loved it, right? In fact, they loved it way before it was released! Welcome to the new era of Gamespot-style gaming journalism: hype the same shit for about a year, rave about it when it comes out, then before someone stops and says, "Hey wait a minute, this game sucked," distract them by offering sneak previews of the next game you’re shilling a year from now. The industry hype for Black & White was disturbingly similar to the film industry’s pre-release raving about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Parallel one: Both The Phantom Menace and Black & White ultimately suck. Parallel two: Almost everything made by the film industry and the game industry ultimately sucks.
Note that I haven’t even gotten into the gameplay yet. Just hang on a second. The first issue I had with this game was its installation procedure. The installation procedure for Black & White seemed to involve trying to fool a CD drive into reading the incredibly cheaply pressed CD as a valid form of media. This only required 2 hours of work. Finally, installation successful, you go to start the game, and it crashes your computer. Hard boot. Crash. Hard boot. Crash… and it crashed my SCSI controller BIOS! What the hell is that? It sorta reminded me of that old version of the MCVARS virus that would worm its way into your motherboard’s EPROMs, requiring a motherboard battery swap to clean. Maybe Peter Molyneux wrote that as well.
Okay. By day two the game started to sorta work. I say sorta, because apparently my puny machine is too feeble to handle the greatness that is Black & White. Now, I am all for games taking advantage of increasing processor power… after all, games with unreasonable system requirements are what keeps Intel in business, bribing the Blue Man Group into making more commercials for overpriced processors that you don’t really need for anything but a game like Black & White. However, and I may be a little old fashioned here… I WANT THE GAME TO USE SYSTEM POWER FOR THE PURPOSES OF BETTER GAMEPLAY!
Ah, gameplay. Yes, well most of you already know the story: you are a god on a little island full of ignorant savages, and you have an anthropomorphic creature thing that you can train to do tricks. Think of it as a sort of advanced Tamagotchi that costs $50 and requires a Cray to run. It’s fun, it’s amusing, but after a while you just start to wonder why the hell you got it in the first place. It does have some drawbacks, though: unlike the Tamagotchi, Black & White has a completely horrible user interface. Be prepared for carpal-tunnel land as you try to just move around on your little island, hoping against hope to focus in on some hapless peasant you want to turn into a farmer. If you are like me, and want to keep the use of your right wrist, you then enter the land of unnecessarily stupid keyboard controls to pan your view around.
So what is it you do in Black & White anyway? You train your creature to do stuff and not to do stuff by alternatively masturbating it to new heights of pleasure or beating the shit out of it. You learn how to cast spells by trying hopelessly to draw designs in the air with your mouse, button held down, while your screen chugs along at 2 fps. You’re lucky if you don’t accidentally cast "Reformat My Hard Drive" when you’re trying to invoke "Miracle Shower." You do little fedex quests, the staple of all games with a "rooooleplaying" element, but the ones in Black & White stand out from the crowd just because the horrible interface makes an activity like picking a sheep up and dropping it in a pen akin to killing that octopus thing in Half-Life. I suppose this makes sheep-carrying more exciting. If you manage to somehow navigate your way around enough to keep track of your village of unwashed, filthy peasants, you can keep performing these mind-numbing miracles to impress them. Apparently the villagers are easily impressed, since they are too stupid to remember how to build a fucking lean-to, instead just hammering you with "Must build homes!" every 4 seconds while you’re trying to teach your creature not to light his farts on fire by smacking him around with a cinderblock.
Still, it’s somewhat amusing to watch, for about a few hours or so. It may amuse you longer if you can do amazing feats like sit through an enitre season of Ally McBeal without eating your shotgun. Black & White is one of a new generation of "games" that don’t actually require you to do anything; it’s all about watching stuff happen. If you really want a game like this, though, go get The Sims. At least there the stuff that happens on your screen can be funny.
The thing that finally forced me to stop playing this game was the same thing that made me stop playing endless repetition games like Caesar III. At a certain point you’ve mastered the terrible controls to the point that you can actually try to do things. I know what I have to do to finish the scenario. I know exactly how to do it. I know the horrible computer AI is too retarded to stop me. And I know that I’ll be sitting there, doing exactly the same thing, for about SIX HOURS I’LL NEVER GET BACK. I hold Peter Molyneux personally responsible for the time I’ve already lost.
Mu Rating: 4/10. You know, "innovative" is not the same thing as "good."