Survivor: The Interactive Game Review

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Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Magic Lantern Playware

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
System Requirements: Pentium II 333 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 12 MB 3D video card, internet connectivity for multiplayer

Based on the popular CBS TV show, Survivor: The Interactive Game gives you a chance to hop into the Outback to test your mettle playing as a cast member from either the original Survivor, the Australian Survivor or as a character you create yourself. Just like the show, there are essentially three segments of the game. In the first phase you perform chores around the camp, chat with your friends and build alliances to try to vote out your enemies. In the second segment, you'll play mini-games. Sometimes the reward is something fun to replenish your flagging emotional and physical reserves – other times the reward is immunity from being voted out. The final stage is the vote itself. Just as in the show, you gather around the fire and then place your vote to determine whose torch is snuffed and who survives to compete another day for the $1 million prize.

Rob de los Reyes

Let's be clear at the outset. This is not the sort of game you throw at a hard-core gamer unless said gamer also happens to be a fan of the Survivor TV series. But I confess, I was a Survivor junkie for the first season. I own the Survivor soundtrack. I have not, however, watched any of the two series that followed the original. My sense was that the game had played itself out. Survivor is a non-repeating game for the particular players involved, and the strategy should therefore be close to the same each time. Moreover, I was annoyed that the producers decided only to cast pretty people in the subsequent series. The show just isn't as interesting with a cast of soap extras as it was with fat, naked Richard and the withered, bigoted Rudy. The original cast members were variously old, weak, distempered, and whiny – qualities lost in the rippled abs of the subsequent casts. The original series was just like life ... but played out for my amusement.

I was therefore initially disappointed that I was forced to play the computer game version of Survivor in the Australian outback. Beyond the mere grumblings of a fan, the selection of the Australian Outback struck me as a poor design choice. The colors of the outback are a near uniform brown, with only scrubby vegetation. It just isn't as interesting to look at as an island set with lush green trees, blue water, white sandy beaches and maybe even a rain storm or two might have been. On that score, it's worth mentioning that the graphics are nothing to write home about. Survivor employs an older engine, but it's enough to get the job done even if inelegant. All of that said, my disappointment subsided the second I discovered that I could play as part of one of the original series' tribes (Tagi or Pagong). Even more exciting, I laughed out loud when I discovered that I could play the game as Susan the truck-driver, whose incoherent rant about letting one of her tribe members die on the side of the highway formed one of the most spectacular indictments of democracy I have ever witnessed. Each of the characters, whether you choose an existing character or create one of your own, comes equipped with certain strengths and weaknesses. Some are strong, some are eloquent, some have good wilderness skills, and so on. It's not as complicated as it seems, since our gameplay revealed strength to be far and away the most important trait.

The game is broken up into "episodes" spanning an entire season on the longest play setting. In the first stage of play, you find yourself in the camp, performing chores in order to ensure group survival. These tasks happen automatically. All you have to do is choose the task you to perform, keeping your character's strengths and weaknesses in mind. If you choose an inappropriate task, your failure to do your job well may irritate your fellow tribe members. The main activity of the initial segment is to talk with other people, try to befriend them, form alliances and figure out who to vote against when it comes time for tribal council. Dialogue happens as a series of threaded multiple choice options. It's cute at first, but the number of dialogue options is surprisingly limited, and you will likely have exhausted them after one or two turns at the camp. It would have been nice to incorporate some free-form conversation options in addition to the necessary threaded ones, even if they were of the simple sort where the AI clings to one of your words and sort of spits it back at you.

The second phase of the game is the heart of the activity. Here you play mini-games either alone or with teammates depending on how far along in the game you are. In one of the pictures below, you see an example of such a game: a log-rolling competition pitting one tribe against another. The controls in each of the mini-games are quite simple and frequently involve nothing more than pointing and clicking. The games are generally fun and even moderately challenging at times, but again suffer from a lack of variety. It is not just that there aren't many games, but also that the trivia games have so few questions that they frequently cycle within a single game. Of course, the recycling of questions is good for those new to Survivor since all the questions relate either to Australia or Survivor episodes – you'll get them right the second time. Last comes the tribal council. If you haven't won immunity, your head is on the block as the host reads off the votes one-by-one, complete with running tally marks to show the progress of the vote. If you get voted out, you take the long walk down the bridge and your game is done. Until you reload.

Again, just to be clear, this isn't the stuff that hard-core gamers' dreams are made of, but if you're looking for a stocking-stuffer for a Survivor fan in your life, you could be in the right place. I had a solid weekend's worth of fun with Survivor, albeit some of it over two or seven beers, but no matter. And with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $20, you're not as likely to feel ripped-off.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 22, 2001 6:23 PM.

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