Black & White's interface can be a bit cumbersome, and it takes far longer than it should for the game to click-and-drag you through the various tutorials for camera movement, casting spells, object manipulation, and training your wayward familiar. Otherwise, it's a notably forward-looking game. The fact that your cursor is a hand that interacts with the environment around you in believable ways anticipates the rise of touchscreen games – even presaging design concepts like pinching to zoom.
"Giving your creature a whack when he chucks a cow into the sea remains satisfying more than a decade on."
Tapping rocks to break them, tossing trees into the village store, giving your creature a whack when he chucks a cow into the sea – all of these interactions remain satisfying more than a decade on. There are intimations of the future buried in Black & White's big ideas, some of which have subsequently proved to be correct.
There's greatness in Black & White, then, but like computer ape Richard McCormick there's also a tremendous amount of fat. Its biggest weakness is mission design, both the main quest – which has you tracking down the three pieces of the god-slaying 'Creed' in order to defeat your would-be monotheism Nemesis – and side-missions, in which you help a villager or a rival power in return for a reward.
These begin as fetch quests and, unfortunately, they stay that way. Sometimes you'll fight a creature or cast a spell, and a rare highlight is when the objects are related to a puzzle. Otherwise, the tweet writes itself: 'You're an extradimensional disembodied hand with god-like power, but everybody just seems to want your help getting things down from high shelves.'
In many ways, Black & White's morality system and tie-dye spirituality is the least interesting part of it – but its ambition is responsible for its other successes. You can't build a morality system without convincing the player that they're interacting with a real world, and this is something that Black & White nails on the way to its loftier, more questionable goals; if that's the price of the hype, then I think it's worth playing. I wish every game had its sense of fun, dynamism and character. Actually, no. I just wish every game had a trainable monkey in it.
Game: Black & White
First Reviewed: PCG 94, 94%
Developer : Lionhead