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Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Fri Nov 11, 2016 8:52 am

The Game Of Life – 1998 Windows Computer Game Review


The Game Of Life
1998, Hasbro
Windows 9x (played here on Windows98)

My Companion Video Review Of The Game Of Life

I always had fond memories of the board version of the Game of Life. Fondest of these were the times I played it with my grandmother whenever my parents had dropped me off there to be watched. My grandfather usually controlled the television, there were no computer or handheld games to be played, just your standard kids toys or a plethora of board games when grandma felt like setting them up and banking. The Game of Life was a favorite amongst these, and while I also had it at home the time spent at my grandmothers playing that game shall never leave me. I have much more to say about the board games but they shall be saved for a separate review.

Guess who else had a fondness for the Game of Life? My father was a long standing nerd of many areas. Long before computers the nerd had only so many vices, board games were one. He was a big fan of pinball games, then arcade games, and in 1982 he bought his first computer in the Commodore 64. In the days of the C64, Amiga, DOS and Windows he primarily dug himself into intricate CRPGs that took quite some time to complete. He was not however, without a few of the more “casual” games. He was a big fan of computer card games, I can remember him playing on the Amiga and other computers for hours on these. I fondly remember the Amiga version of the board game Clue, and the Windows and Genesis versions of Monopoly being played by the both of us.

In 1998 the Game of Life was given its first computer treatment. Besides the ever increasing casual market that tends to love these types of games, I do believe there was also that market for the older computer nerds of the time who were looking back to their childhood. My dad bought the game and it was another one we played together and separately.

^The more simple hand drawn type still cut scenes

The game is about as quirky as you can get. A big part of the game and the thing that differentiated it the most from the board game were its cut scenes. They contained a type of humor that you’ll likely either love or hate. If loved it will come most likely from the feeling that it’s so bad it’s good. You’ll want to roll your eyes but before you do you’ll crack a smile, at least in my case. There are two types of cut scenes; one has moderately okay animation for the time, while the other has still pictures of the hand drawn variety with simple colors but often amusing expressions. There are quite a variety of cut scenes for every single space. Thankfully they kept in mind that having up to six players meant you were likely to land on the same spaces multiple times.

^The more involved animated CG cut scenes

I would recommend playing the game with several players, of the human or computer variety. Being a game based primarily on luck with a tad bit of gambling thrown in there’s no issues with stupid or cheating computer artificial intelligence. Playing with more players gives you more chances to witness the cut scenes, which are the highlight of the game for me. I have to criticize the automatic naming of computer players however, it would be nice give out names to those players.

The game featured a networking mode which utilized TCP/IP. It’s a little limited with its options however. It’ll pick one network card and use the IP address the computer receives. In modern situations this means a local area network with multiple players would be quite easy to configure. However, unless you plug your computer directly into a modem (dial up or cable) you won’t be able to connect via the internet.

^Taking our first spin and stuck in a line a tiny bit later on

At the start of the game you’ll be able to select either a “classic” game mode or an “enhanced” mode. The classic mode is said to emulate to actual board game better but it really only changes one thing. The “Life Tiles” that were introduced in the 90’s and beyond versions of life are here, but unlike the board game you’ll never see what these tiles say or how much money they give you. I find the term “classic” in this instance dishonest because the original versions of life did not feature life tiles, and for me they are one of the worst additions to the newer versions. The share the wealth cards from the original board game offered a tiny bit of strategy to a game almost devoid of it. The only reason I would recommend playing the classic version is if you’d like the game to go by faster. It might as well have been called fast mode rather than classic.

Enhanced mode offers various mini games when you land on a tile that would have otherwise given you a life tile. These games may feature memorization, luck, and/or gambling. They’re simple, you’ve likely experienced the basic idea in games before, but they are usually a welcome change of pace to the game and I usually play with them on.

^Some of the various mini games featured

The board layout could not be further from any incarnation of the board game ever put out. It feels like a million curves designed to shove an object or idea of the cut scene onto the board itself. Personally I remember the various bridges the most from the various board game versions and here the computer features no bridges. The spaces themselves as well as the overall rules of the game are pretty similar to the 1990’s and beyond versions of the board game. If you grew up with the 60’s-80’s versions of the games you’ll be in for quite a different experience, but of course the basic ideas are the same.

^The layout has no resemblance to the board game, but packs in information about cut scenes

You’ll start out having to choose if you’ll go on the path of college or get a job right from the start. Just like modern life the newer rules make it fairly mandatory you go to college. The only time I’d risk starting with a job is if you’re playing with several other players and you’re going last. By the time they suck up all the good jobs you might be in a very bad situation, so in this instance it might be worth gambling and getting that head start. Starting with a job presents you with a slot machine that gives you one job and then you get to pick from a series of buttons once to get your salary.

Taking the college route will eventually lead you to the same slot machine but give you 3 choices for both your career as well as your salary. The sad thing about the newer versions of life is the person that lucks out with making $100,000 grand is most likely to win the game. This is my main problem with the newer versions of life compared to the originals. In a game of luck there’s just not too much luck to be had. Perhaps you might come across a trade your salary card space, which could change the course of the game… However, even when you have all other players using revenge on the guy making $100,000 you’re going to face an uphill battle.

^Forks in the road are more a pick your poison/reward, pretty much the same either direction

You’ll do your normal routines of getting married, buying a house, choosing to get insurance or a stock. Occasionally you’ll be offered forks in the road. Like the newer board game and unlike the original the forks in the road offer basically the same choices either way. There might be one space worth heading one direction over, but most of the time the cost or reward is exactly the same or similar either way you choose. Once in awhile you’ll pass a decade barrier. The game starts off in the 1950’s and ends in the 2000’s. Every decade features appropriately styled music and will alter your cars appearance, but that’s pretty much it.

Eventually you’ll hit retirement and you’ll be faced with the choice of retiring to Countryside Acres or Millionaire Estates. In the original board game those who felt they had enough money to win would retire to Millionaire Estates while those who did not would go to Countryside Acres in order to have one last long shot chance to win the game. In the computer game and the newer versions of the board game it’s honestly sort of flipped around. If you think you’re going to win the game you should retire to Countryside Acres. There you’ll continue to spin until all players have finished the game. If you land on 2-9 you’ll gain minor amounts of money and if you land on 1 you’ll lose a small amount. If you feel you can win this is the safest bet to maintain your money.

^Winning the game of life - Might be the best shot some of us have at it :D

If you don’t feel you’re going to win then you’re best bet is to retire to Millionaire Estates where depending on your spin you can gain big or lose big. This just might bring someone who would have lost up to victory, or make them go broke… But in terms of someone that feels they are going to win I can’t see much of a reason to go there, and thus, what a stupid name. Winning can give you one of I believe two cut scenes, although most of the time I seem to get the limo one. I believe there’s also a private jet one, must need to be stinking rich for that.

My only critiques of the computer game are the same ones I’d throw at the newer board game itself. I don’t particularly care for the layout of the computer game but the overall ride is fun and somewhat short. Depending on the amount of players it can give you 30 minutes to an hour or so worth of gameplay. As with all casual games it will make no top 10 lists (except maybe a top 10 computer board game one) but the point is simply to have fun for the limited amount of time you’re playing. You’ll have that I believe. I used to love playing this game upon finishing up several hours worth of gameplay on Might and Magic 6 or 7. When I had first started playing old Amiga games via DOS ports like Champions of Kyrynn I can remember going to the Game of Life when I got frustrated or bored. It’s a time waster and it wastes time nicely. There have been several newer computer versions of Life made since this 1998 incarnation, the latest being released at the beginning of 2016. They all pale in comparison to the quality of this game, in all respects, including graphics. Casual games do not receive the quality they once did, unfortunately, but this version is utterly worth playing. Check out my video review to see it in action.
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Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:22 pm

I never played the computer version of Life. But I did play the board game verison from the 80s with my brother. We used to put a drop of vegetable oil under the spinner so when you spun it, that f*cker really flew! Got that amazing "brrrrrrr" sound going at Mach 1. Like a hummingbird's wings with turbo. And if you mis-spun and didn't get the right sound, it was acceptable behavior to stop the spin and re-try right then and there. No foul. All good.

About 2 months ago someone down my street had a garage sale. It was a multi-family sale where each household that contributed seemed to be a lady over the age of 70. In any case, one lady had a stack of board games for sale. Not a single one was over $2!

I picked up Life, in unreal mint condition, for $2 (I also got Monopoly and Clue). My new game of Life was printed back in the 1960s, before I was born. I played it with my wife and kids that night and I swear it was different than I remembered. You could actually buy Life Insurance, Fire Insurance - all kinds of insurance! And the paper docs were huge! We were like, "Really?" Then my son actually bought life insurance. My wife and I looked at each other knowingly, smiling, thinking "what a doof!"

Lo and behold, he wound up using his Life Insurance about 4 spins later and it totally saved his ass. Our jaws were on the floor! Our game of Life, though, felt a lot more like 1) luck (which you mention) and lots of it, and 2) every man for himself. It's get the best spin you can, collect as much money, and race to the finish... And if you sucked the whole time? No worries, because you've got a 10% chance of "pulling a Trump" anyway! And for those that decide to make that lottery spin, it's pretty exciting regardless of the outcome. Almost like getting that pinball "pop!" free game.

The computer version you reviewed is nothing like I would have imagined, although I have to admit it's hard to imagine not playing the board game for me. The mini-games are an interesting twist.
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Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:38 am

For me, when they're done well, a good computer version of a game can only enhance your feelings for the game as a whole. Of course you might feel one is better than the other, but one is not obviously superior in my eyes. Pro's and con's of course; The physical board game is of course a special experience... But setting it up and spending half the day playing are not. Imagination is great but so is putting life into these games through animations. I'll never forget the music and short representations of property in the Windows Monopoly game. I'll never forget playing Clue on the Amiga, just like I won't forget playing it in school during rain/snow storms during recess. They are forever entwined in the other, I fully recommend giving it a shot if you can ever track it down.

I'm already editing a review of 3 generations of the board game of life. I have the 60's, 70's, and a mid 2000's one that is similar to all of them after 90'. I'm very curious as to which ones were closer to your experience with the 80's version. That's the only one I have no tracked down. From what I've read it seems to be a hybrid between the 70's and 90's version. Much more politically correct and less luck but the look was that of the 70's version. It'll be a long one because it's so involved with doing them all together.

I'll have so much more to say about the board games when that comes up.

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