I could write 10,000 words about Kudos 2 and still not cover everything there is to say about this incredibly deep, yet completely accessible "life simulation" game, where you get to create an alter ego and decide what path his or her life will take during the ten pivotal years from age 20 to 30.
Comparisons to EA’s The Sims can obviously be made here, but in truth Kudos 2 bears more in common with casual downloads like Hanako Games’ Cute Knight. Although it’s a matter of opinion, I actually preferred Kudos 2’s simpler menu-driven gameplay to the more active approach of The Sims, where you have to fiddle with house furniture and herd your Sim from one room to another.
You’ll start by choosing a character from six male and female templates, then customizing features like hair, clothing, home town and what currency you want to use (pound, Euro or dollar). Every character starts as a 20-year-old with no education and working a low-paying joe-job. From there, all of the decisions about how they choose to spend the next ten years are up to you, including where they work, who they socialize with, what they purchase, and what they do for fun.
My first character was a fellow named Kenneth. I had aspirations for Kenneth to become a police officer, so I started him on a fitness regimen of jogging several times a week and enrolled him in a Basic Law night school course to prepare him for entrance into the police academy.
Each week day, the character will go to work and earn money. This is the less interesting part of the game owing to the fact that you have few decisions to make beyond how they get there. In the evenings and on weekends, however, you get to choose how they spend their free time.
There are dozens of possibilities for things to do, and more become available depending on who you meet and how your character evolves. You could do a solo activity like cleaning the house, taking a class or watching TV, or gather a group of friends together to watch a movie, have drinks at the pub or go to a museum.
Each of these activities has an effect on various character indicators, like loneliness, happiness, relaxation, sobriety, cleanliness, optimism and honesty.
You can also spend extra cash on cable TV and cars, pets, a maid service to keep your house clean, or books that you can read and increase certain stats.
The game keeps track of your immediate friends (people you know personally) as well as indirect friends (friends of friends). Friends will invite you to spend time with them, or you can also organize social events and select which friends to invite by dragging their picture into the activity window.
The level of depth and subtlety in Kudos 2 is often extraordinary. For example, I took Kenneth out to a Mexican restaurant with a couple of friends and couldn’t figure out why, after ordering a bottled water and Caesar salad, he lost 6 Honesty points. Eventually I realized that it was because he had been hanging out with a friend who had a character trait of dishonesty, and it had rubbed off on him by association.
That’s just one example. If you’re too tired, certain physical activities won’t appear in your task list. If you socialize with friends while in a bad mood, they won’t be impressed and you can risk offending them. If characters don’t bathe frequently enough, little flies will start buzzing around their heads. If the house is dirty, your character will get stressed and depressed. If you go to a job interview with a cold, you’re likely to get rejected because you coughed on the interviewer.
One of the best features about Kudos 2 is its near-infinite replay value, as you explore different alter-egos. You’ll quickly realize that it’s impossible to keep everything completely balanced, so you sometimes have to make tough choices.
For example, I wanted to see if I could make my second character, Michele, attain the prestigious profession of Nuclear Physicist. This takes a lot of brainpower, though, so she spent most evenings holed up in her apartment reading science books or taking night classes on physics and computers. Needless to say, she didn’t have much of a social life and she was usually too busy to bathe. She ended up a Miserable, Grubby Physicist with one friend.
Those who have played the original Kudos are likely wondering what’s different about Kudos 2. New features include:
- A graphical overhaul that has resulted in a cool new comic book-style aesthetic and sleeker-looking menus
- The ability to customize the look of the avatar, including buying new clothes to change into for different occasions
- The ability to choose individual menu items at a restaurant, which will affect things like a player’s happiness and weight
- Yearly birthday parties
- More sophisticated friends with stronger personalities, likes and dislikes, which will affect whether they want to hang out with you
- Extra character traits including optimism, honesty, optimist, persuasive and extrovert
While Kudos 2 isn’t light-years different than the original, the new additions are certainly welcome – especally the graphical overhaul. If a suggestion could be made for Kudos 3, it would be to spice up the "at work" part of the day somehow, because that’s really the only part of Kudos 2 that drags.
With near-infinite replay value and complex gameplay that will never cease to surprise, gamers who download Kudos 2 will have one impressive life simulation to sink their teeth into.