This time, I'm discussing an educational game. Educational games were (and still are) often a pathetic attempt at blending educational tidbits with the mind-numbing addiction of gaming, creating something that was somewhat fun to play, and was somewhat informative. They were dubbed, “Edutainment”, and because of how one-sided gamers can be at times, you can only guess that the genre is bashed beyond belief. Of course, educational games aren't nearly as flamboyant as most standard or even mediocre games of other genres, but I have come to accept that. The games are geared for children, and therefore, they don't need all the luxuries like games geared for maturer audiences. Therefore, when I review games in this category, I have to look at it from the developers point of view. I have to wonder what message they were trying to convey, how well they did it, and then interpret it from my end.
The game doesn't really have a story (You're a elephant stopping evil mice. Meh). However, while this game doesn't have a story, it has a topic of discussion: Diabetes. The general emphasis of the game is to inform others about diabetics, BG (Blood Glucose), and other symptoms and features associated with diabetes. As such, the game is fairly informative in that department. There are many random questions that are generated with varying difficulty to broaden your knowledge on diabetes and without sounding like too much of a hypocrite, I feel that this scenario is okay. It gives factual information (For its time. Some info may have changed) and the message WAS to spread the word on diabetes, which they have succeeded in doing to a degree. If you haven't guessed it, this game is a lot like those “Bible” games, except it talks about health instead of religion.
One bad thing about the information the game provides is that some questions are vague, leaving the impression that some have more than one right answer. Others are opinionated, and shouldn't have a right or wrong answer to begin with. Then some of the questions are too repetitive in nature, and generally have the same answers, leading me to believe that there isn't much to know about diabetes (When I'm sure that isn't the case). In the end, there isn't too much diversity in the questions given and the information that's presented. Also, the game doesn't do well in reinforcing your knowledge when you answer questions. There is no prior training to answer the questions. You're just SUPPOSED to know. Many valuable tidbits were omitted because at that time, doctors still didn't know everything there was to know about diabetes, so in the event that the information was false, or lead to someone having adverse effects (Such as I heard with milk. It was said that milk is good for us, but sometime later, they think it may have something to do with breast cancer in women), the creators can't be held accountable. Regardless, it has basic information about diabetes, and the elements of science that are associated with it.
Forget for a second that the game looks bad as a game. The game even looks bad for an educational game. Barney's Hide & Seek (Genesis. Edutainment) and the Mario brand educational games look way better, and while graphics isn't so much required, you have to remember that this is a kid's game. If things don't have SOME level of detail, kid's start to lose focus. When you have to collect different kinds of food and you don't know if it's a “Hamwhich” or just plain old Toast, you have a serious problem. The graphics are sparse on every level, with choppy, sluggish animation and highly unimpressive backdrops. The developers PROBABLY thought the emphasis should lie within the play mechanics and not the presentation (which is probably right), but even some of the most mediocre developers know that you should have an attention grabber. The only positive thing I can think of, graphically speaking, is the water on the “Water” levels. It's obviously not groundbreaking, but it's the only aspect of the graphics that didn't reek in its entirety.
What does an educational game need to have presentable sound? It doesn't need quality or aesthetic beauty according to Raya Systems, Wave Quest, and everyone else responsible for this game. I'll even go as far as to agree with them, but if that's the case, what does it need? All it needs is to be CATCHY, but they even failed in that endeavor. You see, children are fascinated by repetition, so if you had a couple of repetitive, catchy tunes, you'd have kiddie gold. This is what I hear anyway (I'm not inclined to agree), but they couldn't even make catchy tunes. Instead, they make a random assortment of crappy tunes that sound 50% NES, 10% SNES, 10% Genesis, and 30% "Good Lord". The end result is a plethora of crappy BGMs (minus one or two) that fail to create a fun atmosphere.
It's for the kids…SO, how DOES this knowledge help us any!? Well, it doesn't really, but then again, there's plenty of pointless info all over the world, so what else is new? Most people who play games aren't infants...which is why this genre is so impractical to me. Considering who this game was made for, I can tell you right now that it's far too complex. This game doesn't just make you play with a pair of diabetic elephants, you have to BECOME a diabetic. What this means is that you have to measure how much insulin you take, watch your BG (Blood Glucose) level, eat the right foods, find the proper exit items to fight the boss, answer diabetes based questions, and only then can you play the mediocre platformer that is Packy & Marlon. Different foods provide different amounts of servings to a number of categories (Toast to bread, Milk to…Milk, Cheese to…Meat??).You must also monitor which foods you eat, as different foods will change BG accordingly. You must play through the ENTIRE game this way, because if you eat too much, or not enough, your BG becomes too high or too low, and you must repeat a stage over again.
You also have to worry about the time of day, search for exit items, and shoot or pounce hordes of enemies (Jumping hit detection is pretty bad). You keep a log of you BG so you can monitor and approximate how much food you should eat while you navigate the uninteresting landscapes. I guess you can familiarize yourself with the idea that all this just wouldn't appeal to a kid, and barely an adult. True, even I learned some things I didn't know from playing this game, but let's be serious here. Most kids don't have the mind to play a game with this much scope. Most kids will either avoid all the items or collect them all, and most kids can't comprehend most of the things this game discusses. They'll play the first few levels a couple of times and give it a rest. The game has only two power-ups and despite how technical the game is, it's just too mediocre. The only saving grace about this game other than info is the fact that you can play with a friend. This gives it an edge, as opposed to some other educational/bible games because when a kid plays this with another kid (assuming another would want to play), it creates a competitive atmosphere. Playing a dry game together as opposed to playing a dry game alone is almost always better. That's pretty much all I have to say about Packy & Marlon, but I can tell you that I didn't seek to bash the game.
- Written by Vyse the determined -