Reinstall: Black and White

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

Publisher: EA

Release: 2001

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.