a character may be created by either the computer or
yourself, by answering a series of questions such as,
'Do you think questions like this are a waste of time?'
with TRUE and FALSE responses. If you allow the computer
to answer the questions, an option to review and edit
the responses is still available. The seven stages of
life are Infancy, Childhood, Adolescence, Young Adulthood,
Adulthood, Middle Adulthood and Old Age. Any of these
may be chosen as the starting point to the game and
it is possible to play the same section more than once.
not too much to cope with in the early
stages of life. Ah! Ignorance is bliss!
there are two main icons on the screen. The first of
these is accessed to display your main characteristics,
both physical and psychological. The second tells you
your age. The rest of the screen is best described as
a series of icons connected in flowchart fashion. These
central icons are Emotional, Physical, Familial, Intellectual,
Social and (later) Vocational. Selecting one of these
icons enters you on a kind of multi-choice mini-adventure,
which, if successfully completed, increases your life
score. These episodes open up from text windows appearing
above the main screen. As each of the episodes is played
out, the flow chart may be scrolled down to reveal the
next series of events.
Adulthood: older -- but more experienced?
the mini-episodes is the main part of the game. The
choices available allow your character to develop in
a wide variety of different ways. Later in life the
consequences of earlier actions will affect anything,
from what kind of job opportunities are open to you,
to getting a compatible partner for marriage (which
is as suitable time as any to point out that whilst
the version reviewed was 'male', Activision are preparing
a female version). Normally the episodes take the form
of a situation being presented where you are the central
character. You then choose the mood for your character
and then the action he or she performs. More choices
may follow, depending on the situation. The conclusion
usually hints strongly at how well you did and takes
the opportunity to poke fun whenever possible.
a section of the game has been finished, a 'narrator'
comments on your progress so far, offers some advice
for the future and gives you the option of saving the
current game, playing the section again or continuing
into the next stage. Once adolescence is reached, more
static icons appear on the screen. These consist of
High School, Risks, Relationships and Work. They may
be accessed more than once and remain on screen, despite
the disappearance of the central icons. Paying too much
attention (or too little) to any of these icons will
affect you, no matter how well you do elsewhere. For
instance, if you spend all your time dating instead
of going to school, you are more likely to get somebody
pregnant than passing your exams! On the other hand,
do you really want to end up being the introverted,
limp wimp... Of course, playing out the various mini-adventures
properly is still essential to successful play.
looks as if our Cameraman, Cameron, is
down on his luck . . .
taking can improve self-confidence and intellect, but
because of the dangers involved with some of the activities,
may also lead to death. If this section is chosen, the
computer constantly asks whether you would rather stop
or continue. Intellectual questions start becoming more
of a general knowledge quiz. Unfortunately, the questions
seem to be biased towards the American player -- however,
Activision have kindly supplied a crib sheet so it is
possible to answer questions about presidential protocol
life goes on, more static icons appear dealing with
College, Major Purchases, Marriage and Family (the one
you help create rather than the one you came from).
Life consequently becomes more complicated and difficult
to co-ordinate. The game expects you to play in character
and so indicates when it believes you have made a bad
choice in an area. Also, if your action indicated an
impulsive nature rather than a thoughtful one, you may
find yourself rather short on resources from time to
time as the computer assumes you splash out the cash
without much concern for the consequences.
. . or is he? At least there's a lesson to be learnt.
at any point during an episode you wish to backtrack
through to a particular choice, the Review option at
the top of the text screen allows you to do so. A game
may be saved in the middle or at the end of one of the
the public think of the game, one thing is almost for
certain: it's going to stir up a lot of controversy.
Throughout the instructions, there are reminders that
this is only a game. Nevertheless, it tends to be quite
educational and it doesn't consider any area to be a
taboo subject. Everything from early sexual encounters
and toilet training to complex social interaction and
death is given equal treatment -- all with a humorous
sweetener. Even so, the option is given to flip past
these sequences. Apparently, in the states, the game
has gone on sale with an 'over sixteens only' label,
but the same caution is not to be applied to the English
market. No doubt, a lot more will be heard about Alter
Ego . . .