ourWorld is impeccable at snagging the attention of its chief audience, tweens and teens. That much is certain just from a quick playthrough of the game's areas – At just about any time of the day, even school hours curiously enough, there are plenty of teenagers commenting about one another's outfits and befriending each other in the various social and gaming lounges offered by the programmers.
However, there is an insular feeling that surrounds ourWorld, making it a bit less accessible than, say, Moshi Monsters, even accounting for their vastly different subject matter. While Moshi Monsters is cute and adorable to almost an excessive level, anyone can find something to enjoy and challenge themselves with during gameplay. I am a 25-year-old man, but I still had fun finding rare monsters with different plant combinations and trying to best my own puzzle-solving records.
In ourWorld, I felt completely detached from all of the social aspects, which do make up a significant portion of the experience. If you are outside of the game's target demographic, then it simply won't hold as much lasting appeal for you… Yet, I imagine that if you are in the game's demographic, part of the appeal is knowing that older kids and parents might not be able to stomach it. This is a game you will supervise your children playing more than engaging in it yourself.
A sign of ourWorld's popularity: this lobby was rather full, even though it was 2:15 a.m. on the East Coast.
That being said, ourWorld is quite successful at what it aims to do. From the second you create a character, you are immersed in an edgy, hip world. Flash and Java are used to create a gorgeous futuristic world; I kept imagining a cheerier version of the Biff-ruled world of “Back To The Future Part II.” There are no furries (animals) lurking as far as I could tell, but the other players of ourWorld contribute to the atmosphere by mainly clothing themselves in freaky haircuts and outlandish clothing, and by decorating their condos with similar furniture.
The haircuts, clothing and furnishings are all acquired by the basics of the in-game economy, flow. You earn flow by playing games and working at a few locations provided by the programmers, such as a coffee shop. Flow can then be traded in for experience points and gold coins via simple “pop the bubbles” and slot machine games. As you gain experience points, you can equip and buy different things, which is where the gold coins and gems come in.
The game's micro-transactions and marketing become evident as you try to get the cooler gear. Flow can be traded in for coins, but gems are normally acquired with actual cash, at the rate of $5.99 for 100 gems or $20 for 600 gems. Likewise, the real money creeps in for some of the games, which operate like PC shareware – Play X number of levels for free, and pay a flat fee to access the later stages.
This is the very first screen that greets you once you log into ourWorld; an example of how besiged the player is by ads and reminders to spend.
Although ourWorld is aggressive with its reminders about all the things you can buy with real money, the experience itself doesn't rely on spending loads of cash. Some will surely find the constant, “helpful” pop-up reminders about buying gems annoying, though. Without spending anything, I still had access to the real shining point of ourWorld for those of us old enough to drive – the games.
There are more than 50 different games available, ranging from the standard-yet-fun eight and nine-ball pool to variations on Bejeweled and straight-up action games and shooters. Even if you can only play the initial 20 stages in Around The World, a puzzler based on the famous 80-day journey of Phileas Fogg, you can quickly move on to other fun alternatives. Poking around into a different genre each night of the week, I found plenty to entertain myself with, and easily racked up the flow and kept my outfit “Fresh.” (Do kids still say that?)
Games aren't limited to just clones of puzzlers – Some of the genuine articles, like Bejeweled 2, are also playable.
It is a good thing that the games are so varied and enchanting, because the conversation sure ain't. Just brainstorm about what teenagers can do with the relative anonymity of the Internet, and once you're done shrieking, dive on in. While outright abusive behavior clearly isn't tolerated, conversations are dominated by Netspeak and txtspk (r u there? r u hott?). Again, nothing really hideous is going on, but it all has the depth of a kiddie pool.
This makes grading ourWorld somewhat tricky. If you're a teenager and reading this, or you have a teenager, there is a good chance they'll enjoy themselves immensely. If you aren't, then you have to rely on the games, clothing and furniture to keep you entertained, and the game variety is admittedly stellar. For that reason, I do recommend ourWorld, although without the social interaction your interest might wane.
Click here to play ourWorld.