House, M.D.


posted 12/27/2010 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
One Page Platforms: PC
House, M.D. is a terrific TV show. It has strong scripts, diverse plotlines, and each medical mystery brings more depths to characters and relationships involved. Include the very strong cast of actors led by Hugh Laurie and you have a perennial Emmy contender. Sadly, the House M.D. game by XXXX doesn’t even come close to being award winning, unless that award is for most disappointing game I’ve played in a long time.

When you spend the money to license an IP, you set a certain level of expectations; players will know the characters, the setting, the background of the game, and have a firm understanding of the quality of material the game has to build on. Developers, game runners and writers need to have a solid understanding of these expectations, and at minimum deliver up to the quality of the average episode (whether that be movie, show, or comic) of the IP. In general that happens way too infrequently, and definitely didn’t happen with House.

Let me start with what they got right on this game: for a story-driven game, I thought it was fine that they didn’t have any real motion or action coming from the characters involved. The cartoonish representations of the actors from the show weren’t exactly awe-inspiring in the realism, but the characters were all recognizable, and they managed to make “13” look hot in a couple of scenes (not that it’s all that hard). Finally, the actual diagnoses provided at the end of each case made sense for how the story line developed.

One of the complaints that I’ve heard PR folks and developers give when they get a review in which a game is torn to shreds is that the reviewer says “it sucks” but then doesn’t provide the details as to why people should avoid buying the product. So, I’m going to provide for you the many reasons why NOT to buy this game.

First off, the true strength of House M.D. is the acting of Hugh Laurie. He literally embodies the character of Gregory House in a way where no other actor could walk the fine line of savior and misogynist the way he does that keeps House human and a character we can love despite his drug abuse and other failings. Making a House game without the voice acting of Mr. Laurie (or in this case any other actors) is completely without validity. If there’s going to be no action, there should at least be voiceovers by the actors or at least narration by House of the case at hand. Instead, the player is forced to read dialog off the screen. This limits the minimal amount of immersion into the game even further by drawing your eyes away from the graphics.

Even if the player can get around the way in which information is presented in the game, it’s hard to get around how the game expects you to solve the cases you’re presented. For each case you’re given a series of interactions with the patient and House’s team. You are provided multiple scenarios within each case to attempt, and much like on the show, investigate the places where the patient lives and works to collect samples. These visits do not rely on your ability to notice minute details or logically assemble what might be causing the illness of the patient; you simply mouse over the entire screen looking for an object that becomes highlighted. Once you click on the item, you have collected it, and can move on. It takes no thought to do this, and it merely adds to the amount of time spent on the case, not to the enjoyment. A far better solution would have been to simply allow the player to explore the environment and either made everything collectible or nothing collectible, and have the player use their own deductive reasoning to understand what was wrong in the environment that should be tested for based on clues in the game.

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