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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