ORIGINAL FORMAT: Apple ][, C64
ORIGINAL DEVELOPER: Peter Favaro
REVIEWED FORMAT: PC (ONLINE)
DEVELOPER: Dan Fabulich (with Peter Favaro's blessing and cooperation)
What if you could live your life over again?
Twenty one years is a long time. Looking at modern day gaming, and then twenty one years ago, is like looking back at the earth a million years ago. Certainly, one can question the sanity of someone wanting to live a million years ago... why would you want to play a game made TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO?!
Of course, this is a stupid question. I'll repeat: a STUPID (DUMBASS FUCKING... DUMBASS) QUESTION! The problem nowadays with people drooling (including me) when they see the stupendously beautiful screenshots of games like 'Gears of War' and 'Crysis' is that in something like ten years (if not, perhaps inevitably, earlier) those stupendously beautiful screenshots will be out-of-date screenshots. Graphics moves on, always.
Gameplay, however, lives forever. That is why we play games two decades old.
But despite this rambling, 'Alter Ego' (the PC version) is all text and no graphics. Still, "a game in which you have to read?" How many people, with their drool collecting on their laps, want to play that?
You, I hope. Why?
'Alter Ego' starts in the womb and, if you're lucky, ends with you dying a peaceful death at a ripe old age. Ultimately, you're born and you die, the way you're born (yes, really) and the way you die (live a dangerous life and what do you think will happen? Your choices...) is all up to you. Your choices determine your life. The funny thing is the "what if you had chosen differently in life" tagline, and I ended up NOT choosing differently. You'd think, this being a video game, after all, that one would experiment... but there's something about this game that makes you go against the grain, "let me live MY life."
And actually LIVING your life is fun! The text you're reading isn't the usual monotonous RPG droning, there are times (if you're not a plank of wood) where you'll laugh, and then look around to check if anyone heard how giddy you sounded. And there are other times where you'll laugh in disbelief, and then stop to think of the game's accuracy.
Accuracy is another point. To accurately describe life, you have to laugh and cry. And you'll find it here. Despite the pleasing way it's written and how fun it is, this is an ADULT game, so you'll have to deal with adult situations. Homosexuality (read the "wishlist" on the website for more info), death, pregnancy... there are other times where you'll land in a certain emotional state, caught unawares, contemplating your decisions. Or when you're (since I'm a male) smiling uncontrollably after you're girlfriend's agreed to marry you, or --
Another thing about accuracy is in the description, you won't find yourself reading endless lines. There's just enough to let you visualize it yourself.
As I was saying... or reading (and actually "seeing") your son's (as in my case) birth. How many games can provoke so much emotion with all their HDR and surround-sound and laqueur-vision?
I reached the end (the sunset... you'll know what I mean if you play to the seventh stage), and with the final sentence (the end-screen doesn't show your stats, so check them in the menu first), I ended up with a good few minutes contemplating my first discovery, my first girlfriend, my homosexual friend, surviving peer pressure,the nervousness of my proposal, my wife's playful tricks on me, going to my first sleepover and letting my son go to his first sleepover, losing a race to a teenager, arthritis, being asked the time and thinking it was dime, and finally, going to bed for the last time.
In a world where movies spoon-feed us tales of extraordinary superheroes with extraordinary abilities and extraordinary lives, and video games jet us off into fantastic worlds with fantastic graphics and fantastic things to do... it's refreshing to play a game which just asks you to live you're life.
I hope I've convinced you, this was pretty difficult. But you go and play the game, then come back and try to explain it. And you'll discover for yourself the difficulty in trying to explain something when it leaves you breathless.
Thanks to Edge Magazine for providing info and introducing 'Alter Ego' to me.