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Publisher: Big Fish Games    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G4 @ 500 MHz    RAM: 96 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Virtual Villagers
October 3, 2006 | Joseph Cadotte

This last puzzle is the prime example of another, critical, problem. There is no re-play value. There are no new puzzles, there is no randomization even to the (very small) map of the village. Once this last puzzle is completed, the game is effectively over. You can still fiddle around with the villagers, but the only goal from that point on is survival, and the fairly good villager AI takes care of all but breeding for you.

As if this isn't enough of a problem, the last puzzle gives you hope that there is more to the game. There isn't. It refers to other village(r)s, which don't exist in gamespace, and other technologies and puzzles, which also don't exist. I suppose this is supposed to refer to a sequel, but this is one game that doesn't need one, unless it is given free to the people who paid for the original Virtual Villagers.

The graphics do nothing to help. They aren't bad, but they aren't good either. The characers are composed of different pieces, but there aren't enough, so by the time you have thirty or so villagers, there will be several twins. Also, the villagers start to look a bit in-bred, but there is no way to tell if this is intentional (the genetic soup needs stirring) or just another face for the villagers to wear.

As an experiment, this game is interesting. However, there are cheaper games with more to do out there. The AI of the villagers is at the level that should be the minimum for these sorts of games, but the villagers are too smart themselves for the game they inhabit. The frustrating thing about this is that there is a very good concept at work. If it was done with at least an order of magnitude, more puzzles, other tribes, and randomization, this could be a great, long-term, investment of time and energy. As it is, if you feel like playing something like this, get the boardgame Settlers of Cataan or one of its many free- and shareware versions.

Virtual Villagers
Publisher: Big Fish Games
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