Unusually, Black & White lacks any form of standard user interface. The only icon you'll see on screen is a giant hand (yours) with which you do your godly tasks. Complex actions are governed by mouse movements, and as the game progresses it requires greater mouse dexterity to cast spells and the like. While this interface can be daunting at first, it becomes second nature after some practice.
As the game progresses there are a number of quests to complete, and you're also responsible for looking after a creature. It's here that Black and White excels. The creature's artificial intelligence is superb. Treat it nicely and it will amble around the countryside performing good deeds to the delight of the populace. Treat it harshly and woe betide anyone who gets in the way of its giant feet and hands.
The visual landscapes are equally impressive, as is the detail of the inhabitants or "helpers" as they guide you across the rolling hills and surrounding oceans of your island. But the scenery, like the creature, morphs with your gameplay. Evil empires appear black and scorched, while a happier atmosphere breeds an open, warm environment for your worshippers. Combat comes in the form of one-to-one stand-up fights between the creatures. The fighting can verge on the surreal-for example, a kickboxing cow squares up to a boxing ape in the middle of a forest as worshippers chant praise all around.
With Black and White, UK games designer Peter Molyneux has taken AI to new levels and created a game that's bound to be imitated. Do note, however, that this is not an ideal game for the casual RTS or shoot 'em up fan. There are long periods of inactivity, and the general pace can feel sedate as you take in the beautiful graphics and calming soundtrack. Even after playing for 10 hours you'll still be scratching the surface of this intense gaming experience. --Stuart Miles
That would be because its one of the most compelling games I have ever played. The richness of the persistent worlds you inhabit is remarkable. Your actions leave their scars on the landscape in all manner of ways. I know people have complained at the effort apprently necessary to capture some of the later villages, but to me this looked like the game encouraging me to "think outside the box" rather than plough away at the simplest approach. I came up with my own solutions, needless to say, one of which involved saving a small amount of poisoned food from an old mission. This green, rotten grain, when placed in an enemy food store, immediately poisoned the entire pile of food. I then watched as one by one, the villagers ate it and fell ill. Eventually, the entire town died, and i placed just one of my villagers inside it and captured it. Now I'm fairly sure the developers didn't even think of that, and its this capacity for emergent problem-solving and real free will that makes Black and White such a joy to play. Even the boring task of maintaining your villages is absorbing because you can really believe in the villages; see each villager's face and name. You can build luxury housing projects, forests and "parks", and watch the villagers come to dance every night by firefly light. It's really quite special.
The object of the game is to get your villagers to generate as much mana as possible for you. The more they believe in you, the more mana they generate. Note, they don't have to like, they just need to believe in you. So plucking a few villagers and dropping them in the ocean will cause them to believe mroe in you, as will helping to build a house, giving them some food, or throwing rocks at them!
That all sounds well and good, but we now get to the big let down in the game: the Ccreature. Your creature is your beast-servant on earth. Villagers seeing you creature will believe in you more, and generate more mana. However, when you first choose your creature, the game rapidly degenerates into mindless tamagotchi-style pet training, and I rapidly lost interest in the game.