Created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life, the modern board game has its roots in the 1960 version renamed The Game of Life. Many re-publishings have resulted in changes such as salary increases, a switch from convertibles to mini-vans and the replacement of the Travel Agent with a Computer Consultant, but gameplay remains basically unchanged. That’s not true, however, with The Game of Life – Path to Success.
Unlike the classic board game, Path to Success is not about spinning a wheel and moving space-by-space across a three-dimensional landscape. It offers an experience more akin to time management games, with your significant others serving as "customers." And, in deference to its cardboard predecessor, play is significantly more frenzied in the game’s 50 increasingly challenging levels. Your ultimate goal is still to become successful, but the way you go about it is much different.
For starters, job one is meeting the needs of the "pegs" in your life, including your mom, brother, teacher, boss, loved one and more. At its most basic level, gameplay revolves around completing tasks in exchange for reward points. These include basic things like a hug for mom, coffee for your brother, fetching the morning paper, cooking chicken, ordering pizza, watering plants and cleaning up messes around the house. Thought balloons convey needs, clueing you in on required actions.
Simply put, the more quickly you respond, the greater your reward. Take too long, though, and needs vanish along with a peg’s patience and associated points. Of course, as the game progresses, available duties increase, as does the intensity of play. Moreover, Normal and Expert Goals exist for each level, the former necessary to advance and the latter offering greater reward in exchange for enhanced performance.
Tasks are completed easily enough. Identify a peg’s need from the thought balloon, click on the item required and then on the character making the request. But, as play intensifies, "stacking" tasks becomes a necessity, stringing multiple actions together by clicking them in sequence. For instance, mom may desire a hug at the same time your spouse wants the newspaper and your boss calls a meeting. So, string the tasks together by clicking on mom, the paper, your spouse and finally the boss. If something more urgent comes up (you’ll know from the mood depicted by each of your peg-lings), double-clicking or hitting the spacebar will clear the remaining actions in the queue allowing you to change up the order of need fulfillment.
A significant element in Path to Success is bonuses. Tokens of Appreciation, given for answering needs quickly, provide extra points and a brief speed boost. Some tasks grant colored tiles that, when completed, spell out "LIFE," allowing you to buy home upgrades when the salesmen comes a knockin’. Improvements include a faster printer, quicker coffeemaker, speedier oven, the ability to carry more items and the equivalent of overdrive for your peg. Every so often you’ll also hit Pay Day and earn Share the Wealth cards used for playing mini-games. Spin the wheel and the number spun, from 1 to 10, equals the cards earned.
As with the board game, you move through stages of life in LIFE. The first ten levels lead you through graduation and to the first mini-game. The next ten starts your professional career and romance, followed by marriage and a second mini-game. Invariably, after ten more levels come the kids and, you guessed it, another mini-game, and on it goes. As for these minute diversions, each play costs one Share the Wealth card. The first, a dart throwing game, challenges you to break as many balloons as possible. After that comes safe cracking, guessing the right numbers to unlock the tumblers. Next, well…you’ll just have to find that out for yourself.
Path to Success has attractive, Saturday morning cartoon-style 3D graphics and non-intrusive audio. It’s easy to learn, includes enjoyable mini-games and the ability to replay previous levels at any time. Of course, as with the real thing, sometimes LIFE sucks. Clicking can be imprecise, especially when collecting tokens or selecting a peg that unexpectedly moves. Further, play becomes more frantic and intense as you progress through the game, enough that it may alienate some casual fans. And, while you can customize your peg visually, the options are far too limited to be much fun.
Those expecting The Game of Life – Path to Success to be a faithful reproduction of the board game will be disappointed. Though reminiscent, gameplay is vastly different. Still, gamers desiring fast-paced play that mimics the time management genre should find this LIFE-sized entree delectable.