|Min OS X: 10.2 CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 300 MB Graphics: 800x600
The graphics are cute, but disappointing. The entire game takes place in a series of flat, non-zoomable environments that occupy maybe three screens high and five screens wide at best. This makes it difficult to closely examine the various interactable objects or the expressions of the various creatures that you are managing. All in all, the graphics are no more complex than those that can be composed in a Flash movie. Admittedly, it is prettier than any Flash game I've ever seen, but still is not up to the standards of a few years ago, much less today.
Despite the paucity of high-end graphics, it still runs slow on my 800 MHz G4. While this could be expected for a prettier game, or a game with more in memory at any given time, it is sloppy based on what is accessible to the user. I have said that the AI is very complex, and I assume that there is a huge amount of computing devoted to that, but it is still excessive.
The sound isn't that great, either. It can best be described as "cute." This is fine for younger children, but not as much for teens or adults. Like the graphics, the sound is dated. As the Norns learn, they eventually learn a simplified English. Ideally, they would actually speak it, not just in staticy gibberish. This is especially important in a children's game, where the end-user may not yet be fully literate. The sound effects themselves aren't bad, but the music is inconsequential at best.
While huge amounts of effort have been put into the Norns, Ettins, and Grendels, not as much has been put into their surroundings. First, all environments are identical from game to game; there is no randomization or customization, making the only unique element the creatures themselves. Second, while the gadgets have the potential to be neat, in actuality, the response the player sees is the same as the computer does; there is no translation into a more user-friendly system. For example, a gadget that detects Grendels doesn't say left or right or hot or cold, but gives values from -127 to 127. Third, it is frequently unclear how something as simple as an elevator functions without turning on the help function. The Norns learned how to use it immediately, but it took me a bit of work.
Fundamentally, the elevator example is all that is right and wrong with this game. It is one of the most sophisticated ant farm/sim games available, and it is appropriate for all ages, but it is also needlessly frustrating. While it can be rewarding to teach a Norn how to play with a ball or a radio, getting them to use the hover platform will cause fits. Ideally, this game would be less annoying. Small children and impatient adults will find it tedious, but children who have help from their parents, older children, and sim-happy adults should be able to overlook the flaws and find it enjoyable.