Electronic Arts – Black & White review

the God game to end all God games
Photo of Electronic Arts – Black & White

It’s tough being a deity. You might think it’s all little fluffy clouds, pearly gates and angels singing your praises from dawn to dusk, but the reality is far removed from these idealistic images. Have you any idea how much time it takes to round up a hundred million locusts for a good plague?

Black & White casts you in the shoes, or indeed open-toed sandals of a would-be powerful God, with a chance to make an impression on the world below. It’s the latest God game from the mastermind Molyneux (creator of Populous), although Black & White is actually a sort of hybrid between a real time strategy, God game and Tamagotchi simulator.

You’re charged with managing your worshippers’ towns – making sure they have enough supplies, in typical RTS style, although the micromanagement is kept to a blissful minimum. Villagers don’t have enough wood to build that much needed workshop? Then simply use your Godly hand to rip up a few trees and bung them in the sawmill. Easy.

The God bit of the game is pretty obvious – you’re a God, and the more people you get worshipping you, the more power you have for spells and miracles. You can get neutral villages worshipping you with displays of power and vengeful lightning bolts, or by miraculously creating food for them. Other Gods are your enemies and their settlements must be destroyed and their followers converted.

Lastly, the virtual Tamagotchi bit comes in with your ‘creature’, which is your living presence in the land. It wanders around, noisily taking a dump, moaning when it’s hungry and generally not being very useful, until you train it to do constructive things like keep your villagers happy by getting them food. Eventually, it will even learn to cast spells like its Godly master, and eventually become surprisingly clever.

The whole package is tied together rather neatly with the ribbons of a seamless interface. You literally interact with the game using a hand, which is moved via the mouse, and the two mouse buttons. There are no menus or any of that lark… it’s very smartly implemented overall, even if rotating the camera and getting used to movement is a tad tricky initially.

To say Black & White is a visual treat would be an understatement – it’s astounding, although a little machine intensive. The sounds are excellent too, but the most prevalent factor that makes this a real classic is that “wow” factor. The first time you throw a villager into the sea in a fit of rage, the first time your creature learns to cast a spell by watching you do it, or the first time he takes a crap on the village leader… it’ll wow you. It’s one of those games that really is an experience, no bull about it.

Company: Electronic Arts

Black & White turned out to be the work of genius we had hoped for from the Molyneister... it's all things to all men, and then a bit more. Okay, the camera movement is a tad tricky at first, and there are only three multiplayer maps, but more will come out when the map editor is released. Overall, this is simply brilliant - unless you hate God games and their ilk, it's a must-have purchase.