Platform: Windows (XP or Vista) PC
Developer: Stardock Entertainment (official game page)
Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
The Political Machine is a turn-based strategy game where the goal is to conquer the worl... become President of the United States. You do this by flying your candidate around the country, state to state, building country awareness of you and promoting yourself on various issues, such as Gas prices or the War on Terror, all over the course of 41 turns. At the same time you manage your funds, build Election Headquarters, belittle your opponent, kiss a few hands, shake a few babies and overall make the world a better place.
The most obvious aspect of this game is the graphics. Bubble-head characters very similar to Nintendo's Mii's. The country is depicted in a 3D cartoon style and each state pops out of the country when highlighted. This adds a flavour of parody to the game and gives the impression that this game isn't going to take itself too seriously. The music of this game isn't noticeable. It's possible to play through the game without noticing music was even playing.
When you begin the game it becomes apparent that there is no interactive tutorial to guide you on your first couple of weeks. There is a tutorial on the main menu and its purpose is to tell you what everything on the screen is and what buildings do. The opening help screen upon starting the game tells you how to move around and some general details. What neither assistance does is tell you what to do to actually win. Once you click past the opening help screen, you're on your own.
The main screen gives the player options to display a plethora of information, little of which is defined or explained. You are given no help during the game in the way of strategies or tips and as a result a first time player will lose their first games badly whilst they work out, through trial and error, what it is they're supposed to do to win.
At the end of the game each of the states lights up in turn in either Blue or Red to represent the candidate they vote for. This will create confusion to some players as many of the states they were most popular in voted for the opponent instead, this is because the popular vote and the electoral vote aren't the same. Americans should know this, non-American's won't.
One of the most customisable areas of this game is the character creation. This allows you to create custom candidates, you could create yourself or go so far as to make a blue skinned eyeless alien. Choosing your appearance and position on topics is very easy to do. However knowing what these topics are will require reading through them, this will presumably affect an American player less as they will already have an understanding of the meaning of some these issues, such as Federal Government. A Foreign player however will need to read them carefully. Some of the issues are ambiguously named and you're left uncertain as to which side is 'For' and which is 'Against'. One important issue here is selecting your party of either Democrat or Republican, who both favour one side or the other of a topic. The player is left in the dark as to which party favours what viewpoint.
Overall this game has a learning curve like a mountain, one which could have been avoided with giving the player more assistance. Calculating votes and popularity in states is very math heavy and although calculations are done for you, you still need to understand what the numbers mean and how to improve each in order to gain ground in a state. As the game is very heavily based upon American Politics and terminology, it's likely to alienate foreign players from even picking it up.
The inclusion of custom characters gives the game a bit more of a foothold outside of the USA, as at the very least, a player can create themselves in the game as opposed to playing as Barack Obama or George Bush. Also the Quick-Play option, despite the very misleading name, allows the player to play a Custom Scenario in a comedy style Europe , Civil War USA or an alien planet whose denizens are hell bent on Galaxy Conquest. The alien planet is particularly amusing with their issues of alien destruction and artificial slaves and terror star building. I'm just disappointed I can't have Darth Vader as my Vice-President.
The most important question to ask is: Is it fun?
The answer is not really. It's a frustrating game to get to grips with, working out the maths is tedious and the only reason you'll keep playing is because you're stubborn enough to want to beat your opponent. After you beat him however, you realise you now have a new opponent to beat and you've to do it all over again and again and again. At this point it'll probably sink to the bottom of your games pile.
Graphics: 3.5/5 - They're bright and interesting, the customisable character has a lot of potential.
Sound: 1/5 - It's background music and no more, it plays little part in the feel of the game
Gameplay: 2/5 - Very repetitive. All that really changes from game to game is the world map and names of issues. You do the same thing every single game.
This is a game that will mainly appeal to Americans, those interested in politics or those who played the first Political Machine. While it is possible a non-American may enjoy it, those who do would be in the minority.
Last edited by bandit; December 15th, 2008 at 01:03.
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