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This Column Is Rated X
December 1st, 1998

Gary: Once upon a time...

Randy: What the hell are you talking about?

Gary: Wait, wait a minute. Give me a second.

Once upon a time, two Idiots left their home on the Upper East Side and ventured to a great big Macintosh superstore in midtown Manhattan to spend their hard-earned allowances on some new games.

Randy: Oh, yeah, I like this story. How much money did The Idiots have? Huh?

Gary: Well, Randy, The Idiots had a hundred and fifty dollars.

Randy: Wow! Neato!

Gary: So the Idiots perused the nice selection of Mac games on the shelves. There were so many new games that The Idiots had a hard time choosing which games they wanted to play.

Randy: What games did they get? (yawn) I want to play.

Gary: First, The Idiots picked MDK from Shiny Entertainment.

Randy: Yea!

Gary: Then, because The Idiots love network gaming, they decided on Diablo from Blizzard Entertainment.

Randy: Yea!!!

Gary: And, last, because The Idiots were such fans of the television show, they got The X-Files: The Game from Fox Interactive.

 

Randy: Oh. I don't like this story anymore.

Gary: Why not?

Randy: Because the X-Files game sucks raw root!

Gary: Now, now, Randy, let's not be harsh. Let's just say that it sucks root.

Randy: Alright, alright. Let's talk about The X-Files: The Game. It ships on seven hybrid CD-ROM's, for Windows 95 and Power Mac. The game has excellent production values, features the original cast from the TV series, makes incredible use of almost full screen QuickTime movies, and contains very good acting by the entire cast. That being said, it is not a very good game.

Gary: The problem with The X-Files game is the extremely poor game design and implementation. The overall game experience was so bad we can't even comment on the plot because we never got far enough to find it. The games begins with you, the player, as FBI agent Craig Willmore reporting to work at the Washington State bureau field office. From there, the game crawls forward at a snail's pace. We spent a lot of time waiting in this game, waiting to be called, waiting for a clue, waiting to put more tape on our nose, waiting for something to happen.

Randy: I think the game designers were trying to present a realistic detective adventure, but they forgot about the fun and suspense in the process. What results is a rather dry run through a silent rehearsal of an X-File's episode. And to top it off, the game had what we consider to be a terrible user interface. In the first few minutes of the game, the X-Files manages to indulge in some of our most hated interface devices.

As we have mentioned in previous reviews, we can't stand dialogue boxes full of predetermined questions that the player must click through one by one. (Come on, speech recognition!)

Additionally, there are times when the player must express their response by an emotion. In these situations, the player must click on colored boxes that pop up in the bottom of the screen. The appropriate responses are very easy to pick, making this aspect of the game quite predictable and generally distracting from game play. We found that it totally broke any immersion in the game. The X-Files leads you by the nose with each character you meet, asking you to ask eliminate each dialogue choice until the list is empty.

And we never got to see Scully naked!

Gary: Uh, right…The other thing we hate are inventories. We will admit sometimes you have to have them, but at least put some thought into the design the inventory interface. The X-Files has a huge inventory that spills out across the bottom of the screen cluttering up the otherwise minimalist interface.



Besides being unsightly, the inventory is very confusing. Some items in your inventory are usable items that allow you to drag them into the main viewing area. Other items simply animate when you click on them, but do not allow you to grab them. Still others are totally static after you put them into your inventory, never moving or allowing you to touch them again.

Randy: I agree, very confusing. I can deal with an inventory, if it's well thought out. However this inventory was inconsistent and unsightly. I found myself many times just cycling through the items in my inventory, just randomly trying things because it was unclear what certain items were for. (Hello, Zork!)

Gary: The next item on our list of disappointments with this game is the layout of the nodes the player is allowed to walk through. The scenery was shot on location with photographic stills, which gives no excuses for the lack of available views. Many nodes are two views only, meaning you can either look forward or behind you, but not to the left and right. However, other nodes have three or sometimes four views, making it confusing as to which direction you are facing. Most views have no hotspots, and the ones that do have the hotspots hidden in obscure angles. I spent a lot of time wandering around rooms aimlessly searching for something to interact with.

But then again, I do that all day at the office.

Look at all that stuff around the playing area you are supposed to keep track of.
And it gets worse the further you get in the game!

Randy: Here is a fine example of how simple touches would have helped. Using crossfades as transitions from one shot to the next, instead of abrupt jumpcuts, could have smoothed out a lot of the confusion in the navigation. This kind of lack of attention to game play is symptomatic of the game overall. No one took the time to put the fit and finish on the user experience, and the overall game suffers.

And we never got to see Scully naked!

Gary: Thank you! There is absolutely no reason not to write in a shower scene. But our NUMBER ONE GRIPE with The X-Files game is the inexplicable lack of music.

Randy: Fox Interactive advertises 3D Surround sound in The X-Files: The Game. But for what? An office phone ringing? The player spends so much of this game sitting around waiting around for something to happen...in silence. Scenes do have ambient sounds, but this game needed suspenseful music to create a mood. Only a very few high points had music at all. It was a suprising weak point in the game, considering how well the TV show uses music to heighten the experience.

Gary: Gee, we sound pretty angry about this game. Don't we?

Randy: Well, it's just that we are big fans of the TV show and we really expected a lot from this game. It just seemed with all the potential this title had going for it, the game designers really dropped the ball.

And we never got to see…

Gary: Si, there, amigo! A poor user interface and lack of ambient music combined with a really slow game pace made The X-Files Game a loser in the Idiots' cave.

Randy: Believe it or not, I was leaning towards a one-stick rating.

Gary: If not for the good production values and fine acting, I would say the same. But I say two sticks.

Randy: So it is written, so let it be done! TWO STICKS!!! Because we never got to see Scully…

Gary: Okay, okay, thanks Randy!

 

Can you get off the desk now?

The X-Files: The Game gets And not just because Scully stays fully clothed. 

The X-Files: The Game
Fox Interactive
MRP: $49.95 
System Requirements:

Mac:
Power Machintosh 603E 120Mhz (180 Mhz recommended)
Mac OS 7.1 of later
250 Mb free hard drive space
12 Mb free RAM with Virtual Memory enabled or 18 Mb
4x CD-ROM (8x recommended)
Graphics card supporting Thousands of Colors at 640x480 resolution (Millions of Colors recommended)
Apple QuickTime 3.0 and DrawSprocket 1.1.2 required.

PC:
Pentium 120 Mhz (166 Mhz recommended)
Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3
250 Mb of hard drive space
16 Mb RAM (32 Mb recommended)
4x CD-ROM (8x recommended)
Windows 95 DirectX compatible graphics card supporting High Color (16 bit) at 640x480 resolution
(24 True Color recommended)
Windows 95 DirectX compatible sound card
Windows 95 compatible mouse

 

The Idiots use a four stick rating system to rank the games we play. Here's how it works:

= Lame = Sales Bin Only = Pretty Cool = Excellento!

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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