Now that The Sims has earned the rank of best-selling PC game of all time, it’s no wonder we’re now witnessing a handful of other “life simulations” created for players with a yen to live a different life vicariously though a digital alter-ego.
An intriguing new British computer game, Kudos, borrows a bit from The Sims’ fulfillment meters – so you can visually see if your character is running low on, say, energy or happiness – but tackles the day-to-day tasks and accomplishments in a more strategic, turn-based fashion.
While the concept of this downloadable diversion is a clever one, execution of the idea falls short of its potential because of repetition, a somewhat confusing interface and random technical glitches that can mar the experience.
The player must first choose a male or female avatar and then give him or her a name. My 20-year-old goatee-donning Scott was a moody waiter at Happy Snacks restaurant in Slough (the same London suburb where the employees at the BBC’s The Office work, actually!). To start, Scott only made a measly 6,800 pounds a year (the game doesn’t let you play in U.S. dollars or other currencies of your choice), so with his limited income, he must choose an activity that is either free (e.g. jogging), cheap (going to the pub with some friends) or he can blow a week’s salary (plus tips!) on the theatre or shopping.
The game plays out day by day, and one of the fun things to do is decide on a social activity at night or on the weekends. Some activities require the player to drag and drop some friends and other acquaintances you’ll meet to invite them along. If they accept, you’ll get some information about how happy they were with the activity. For example, Jill didn’t like playing tennis much but she had a good time with Scott, while the next night, Sally said your bad mood turned her off at the Chinese food restaurant.
One of the interface issues with Kudos is when setting up this social activity; it took a while to figure out how to drag and drop friends into the same outing, and in some cases, pop-up windows with information went off the screen and I wasn’t able to close it because I couldn’t see the “X” in the top right corner (even when I minimized the game to adjust display settings). It should be noted there is a free downloadable patch that fixes some technical glitches.
If things go well in social settings, you earn Kudos, a kind of currency in the game, which reflects your social standing with your world around you.
The neat thing about Kudos is the open-ended nature of the game. Not only can you take a night class, but you can choose from a number of different hobbies or possible careers. Scott enjoyed his singing lessons and even met some interesting people there. Depending on your achievements, you may also want to change to a better career, such as a doctor or lawyer. Or you can always vie for a promotion at work if you meet the criteria. Unfortunately, Scott enjoyed the pub a little too much and one of the prerequisites for a promotion was sobriety. Ah well. Scott eventually fell in love, and she didn’t mind he wasn’t the biggest breadwinner (but getting his driver’s license and cable TV was well-received).
While you can continuously work on making more money, increasing your Kudos or aiming for higher stats when it comes to, say, confidence or health, the game-play tends to get boring after a few weeks (in “game” time). Perhaps this is because Kudos is turn-based rather than real-time, or maybe because the game is essentially a bunch of screens with text and non-animated 2-D graphics (except for a fly that buzzes around your screen for some odd reason). Compare this, if you will, to The Sims, where you can move your character around the world, build up your home in any way you like and interact with neighbours by going outside to chat. While intriguing, after a while Kudos tends to get rather, well, dull.
The premise behind Kudos is a great one, and it’s certainly more than a clone of The Sims, but between the static and sometimes confusing visuals and random technical problems, Kudos is, at best, an average game.