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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

Click to enlarge
Virtual Villagers is a sim game where one guides a small group of castaways through the founding and development of their village. It can handle many, many different unique villagers and has sixteen different puzzles. The player assigns preferred jobs to each villager and they accumulate skills based on what tasks they perform.

First, let me say this - the music in Virtual Villagers is surprisingly good. I am one who rarely leaves the music on after five minutes, but this music is engaging and interesting, as well as perfect in keeping with the theme of the game.

Second, the villagers behave in mostly sensible manners. If the job you assign isn't needed, they will go on to a secondary job which is needed. This is a nice change from micro-managing everything, a too-common failing of most sim games.

Third, the game is pretty interesting for the first hour or two. Trying to figure out the puzzle spots and solving the first few is pretty engaging, as is making sure the villagers have enough food to survive.

Those are the good parts. Oh, the icon isn't bad either.

Now for the rest of the game, i.e., the bits that are absolutely awful.

The puzzles range from incredibly easy (build a hut) to incredibly difficult (get your tech to a certain level, then bring a villager holding something specific to a certain place and then get that thing to create another unrelated object and bring it all to a third thing, which has no bearing on anything else thus far). Five of the sixteen puzzles are completely illogical and depend entirely on happenstance (or reading the message boards). The other eleven make some sense, half of those are needlessly simple (the aforementioned build a hut puzzle) or needlessly complex and all are unfulfilling in their payoff.

In fact, the last puzzle is a prime example of this. It requires the results of previous puzzles put together in no logical manner to create the key. Then, and this is important, the player has no control over when the key completes the puzzle. Placing it somewhere, assigning a job, getting it to interact, nothing the player does will influence whether the last puzzle will be solved. It could happen immediately after the key is created, or it could happen hours after.


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