Friday, April 23, 2010


Wolf Quest

(This is a review I did for the Eegra "Reader Radness" forum, so that explains the different formatting. I'm moving it here for preservation because Eegra seems to be packing up.)

So I gave the game a play this evening. It's about what you'd expect from a freebie educational title targeted at 9- to 13-year-olds -- low quality, but lots of good intentions.

After putting a wolf together with some sliding bars, you're dropped in the middle of this gigantic forest, and a pop-up window explains that you're looking for a mate. So you wander around a bit and get the hang of the controls and maybe murder some rabbits and elk, and then you realize that there's a compass that'll show you where the other wolf territories are around here.

So then you spend about half an hour running across the vast, empty forest, and maybe you murder some more animals or die of starvation, until finally you get to one of the wolf territories. A friendly pop-up explains how to turn on Piss Stain Vision so that you can find the valuable piss stains that eventually lead you to the single wolf that's standing around in its territory.

Now, murdering animals is a real-time thing where you have to run your wolf up behind an animal and press the space bar to bite its ass until it dies, but wolf interaction is handled with a much more robust and nuanced turn-based mechanism. And this is the neat and educational part, because it'll act out the actual vocal and body language that a wolf would use. So when a rival wolf tells you to piss off, it'll put its tail up and bare its teeth and growl, and when you roll over and expose your vulnerable belly to try and curry favor, it'll walk right up and fucking murder you.

But once you figure out that all you have to do is go on the offensive and never relent, you'll start kicking all the rival wolves' asses and feasting on the succulent elk carcasses they have scattered around. Which is good for your ego, but doesn't get you any closer to finding a mate. However, once you've visited all three of the wolf territories in the game, a new helpful popup window explains that it will finally grant you an appropriately-gendered wolf that you can try to woo, and that's the very next wolf you meet.

Upon meeting your betrothed, the turn-based wolf interaction menu becomes a sort of wolf dating sim, with options like "I like you", "Let's play", and "Let's form a pack", with hearts appearing to indicate your level of success. Once you've successfully wooed your mate, you get to name it, and that's basically the end of the narrative for the first episode. You're free to continue going around murdering other animals if you want, though, with your mate tagging along as an AI sidekick. The computer teamwork is actually pretty promising; I'm interested to see how they'll implement it in later episodes.

I didn't get to play the multiplayer because your game is tied to your username on their message board, and I never got my confirmation e-mail back from them to join, and basically the whole thing just doesn't seem worth it anyway.

The concept of a game that focusses around wolf pack hunting is pretty cool, and you can tell that they're really trying to make a *game* here rather than some sort of phoned-in fundutational pile of shit, but you can also see where the funding and the adherence to realism is holding them back. (They come out and admit in the developer's blog that a real wolf's life is actually pretty boring, and they've been doing what they can to try and jazz it up a bit.)

So what they've come up with is probably not exciting enough for a gamer or sexy enough for a furry, but you do get to make a wolf run around and kill things for a bit, and if that's good enough for Chris Everhart, then that's good enough for me.

Wolves: 8.5/10
Murder: 9.7/10
Education: 3.4/10
Sex: 1.2/10

Final Score: Nabad.


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