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by Infogrames

cooking-01.jpg (4536 bytes)I entered Infogrames’ Survivor: Australian Outback with a generous spirit. Hopes not high for a computer game based upon a television show, I expected to be surprised and maybe charmed by a few diverting hours of play. As the one star above testifies, this title instead took me for a long, dull ride that I was happy to get off. I like to think all games into which some developer has invested some time and money have at least one or two moments of fun, but this title unfortunately disproves such an assumption.

colby-01.jpg (5081 bytes)Survivor uses the characters (why bother calling them people) from the Australia series and allows you to either play one of them or to create your own, allocating character points across physical or personal traits. You can be a skilled communicator, a tough dynamo (win those immunity challenges), or the usual average-in-everything combination. There’s not much depth here. Becoming really good in running means being really bad in so many other things that mediocrity is the best option – which should in no way reflect on the quality of contestants on the television show.

ch_mastermind-01.jpg (5239 bytes)You are then thrown into a Survival period in which you pick an in-group role (cook, fire-tender, wood-gatherer, etc) and allocate scarce empathy points to other tribe members (thereby creating alliances) before meandering through a three minute animation during which you watch your character walk around, sit, and walk around some more – you are supposedly performing the afore mentioned cooking, gathering – as well as talk to other Survivors, earning more empathy points in the process. I thought this would be the best part of the game: backstabbing people, spreading rumors, pimping for the camera, but the dialogue trees are rudimentary and easily deciphered. No surprises lurk and nobody will erupt into a storm of verbal abuse. Here the game could have been interesting but squandered the opportunity.

ch_AntHill-01.jpg (5891 bytes)Next comes an immunity or reward challenge. Win and you or your tribe gets a pack of waterproof matches or immunity in the up-coming tribal council. These are banal and slow. One challenge has you towing a log a certain distance and then running a long race. Your only input is to make your character run faster or slower. That’s it. Tap the faster arrow when he or she is not too tired. Tap the Slower arrow when she or he is too tired. Bored yet? You might get a puzzle challenge so simple as to be laughable. The only really fun challenge I played placed you in a first-person shooter interface floating down a river and shooting arrows at targets. The controls, however, were inexact and the graphics terrible.

challenge1-01.jpg (7870 bytes)Finally, a tribal council happens and features another clunky animation of your character walking towards a podium to vote and voting some lucky person off the outback. This rigmarole continues for the thirteen episodes of a full season. I’ve played it so you don’t have to. There is a multi-player mode but it’s more of the above only with real people forced into mindless repetition. Be bored with friends.

conversation-01.jpg (6618 bytes)I think the developers made a critical mistake envisioning who would play this game. They ought to have geared it towards the casual gamer and built it along the lines of Deer Hunter or Trophy Bass. The game should have been quick to load (the load times between sections are sometimes longer than the sections themselves) and provided twenty or thirty minutes of diversion. Instead they went for immersive gameplay that mimics the television series. First, hardcore gamers aren’t going to buy this title. Not that gamers aren’t fans of the series, but there are too many other, better-made titles demanding their attention. Also, and this should be obvious, a television show is passive and a game is interactive. Therefore, a game ought not mirror television. But that’s exactly what’s been done. I spent more time watching things occur than making things occur. In fact, much of the game is video shots of the actual show. I don’t buy games to watch television. One of the best casual games I’ve played this year is Sheep. It’s fast, easy to understand, and simple in execution. Additionally, it looks great, something not true of Survivor. Survivor should have been built on that model, and while I have no problem with CBS looking for tie-in dollars, I wish they had made a good-faith effort with this game.

jerri2-01.jpg (7381 bytes)Further exposition on graphics, sound, or storyline is pointless as they don’t exist and the overall quality of the game is so poor as to render technical excellence (if there was any) moot. There isn’t even an options screen; you are trapped listening to the endless didgeridoo beat. Was this a rush job? Did the producers just not care? I hope Survivor was banged out quickly as that would explain and render some of the game’s flaws forgivable if unbuyable. I don’t want to sound acerbic, but I began with low expectations and even those were not met. If you liked the show, watch it again.

Matt Blackburn   (12/18/2001)


Ups: We really can't think of any.

Downs: Poor graphics; bad controls; lack of real interactivity; ill-conceived gameplay.

Platform: PC