Black & White (PC) Lionhead
Okay, we'll admit it. We were as caught up in the hype as everyone else. Our review called Black & White "one of the most unique -- and enjoyable -- strategy games we've seen this year." We were as enthralled by the creation of the game as anyone else. We posted nearly a dozen developer diaries over the course of the game's development. Charismatic designer Peter Molyneux (Populous, Dungeon Keeper) won gamers over with the promise of an amazing game experience where you could play God, interacting with your people and (most intriguing) training an enormous creature to represent you.

The screenshots were beautiful, the giant creatures were charismatic, the premise was golden, and the technology (which allowed you to look at the whole world and then zoom ALL the way in to see a single worm wriggling in an apple) never ceased to amaze. So you can't really blame the hype for getting out of hand. The gaming world fell in love with the idea, and embraced the game with open arms when it came out.


This could be one of the Ninja Turtle's ancestors.
There was trouble in paradise, though. While it was a brilliant high concept, the core game was lacking. There was no way to really interact with your townspeople, short of giving them tons of resources (or hurling them about). Controls were unintuitive. Your creature was remarkably shallow, with only limited interaction. You might be the nicest deity in the world and end up with an evil animal, with no real clear understanding of how the critter got that way. Moreover, half of the game's five levels crippled or removed your creature in some way, removing the most interesting part of the game. And bugs were rampant: Some missions didn't work, and it was possible for your animal to get permanently cursed.

Yet, despite these problems, the idea was so strong that the hype continued. Here at GameSpy it still got a great review score, despite the problems. Fans embraced it. Black & White was an event that should have been a non-event. Sometimes, though, people want to love a game so badly that its reputation runs away with itself.

Fargo: Black & White was definitely one of the most overrated games of all time, but it's hard to be too down on it. At least it was ambitious and daring, something that more games need to do nowadays. Personally, it sent me into a howling mouse-hurling rage when yet another bug kept me from completing yet another mini-game, and I was actually relieved when the game took my creature away from me for one of the levels because I had long ago given up trying to get him to do anything useful. But Peter Molyneux still has a lot of credibility with gamers. I'm excited about his next game and the other cool projects he's associated with. I just wish that Black & White's high concept had been given a reality check about halfway through development.


Warrior: What did we do? That's my thought looking back on our review. And I must admit, I was one of the ones most adamant about giving the game a higher score. I really enjoyed playing it ... for the first couple of days. Then the tedium set in. Unfortunately, this was after the review ran. The high concept was great, but the game broke down because there was so much to do, little in the way of explanation, and then lots and lots of repetition. In the end, it was just another RTS where you gathered resources, with a touch of RPG where you fulfilled a few quests. The creature was a great idea, but something got lost in the translation. Molyneux said he has learned from the mistakes in the original. The concept was innovative. But here's hoping the sequel has better execution.


slowdrag: Talk about hype! In fact, prior to it's release, we printed thirteen multi-page developer diaries for Black & White, securing it a place as one of our most covered games ever -- not that that's a bad thing, if the game lives up to its promises. In this case, however, B&W didn't even come close. On the morning of its release, I remember we packed ourselves tightly into a small car, bolted down to the local retail games shop, and purchased a dozen copies at $50+ a pop. Upon our return, and a few hours of playing, most of us were perplexed. Is this what we'd be waiting for? How do I maneuver this giant god-like hand? What's the deal with my creature? What's with the awkward camera movement? Mr. Molyneux, what have you done?

In any case, even though the graphics looked stunning, and the freeform nature of the game was somewhat groundbreaking, Black & White's gameplay just wasn't there. It was a convoluted mass of everything -- there was too much to do, too much to see, and its lack of direction overwhelmed many of us. So why, you may ask, did we give the game such a good score? It must have been the hype. It played so long in our heads, that when the product was finally realized, we just couldn't tear our minds from it. There had to be something deeper, something we'd realize after more hours of gameplay. Unfortunately, there wasn't. Don't believe the hype.

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