Kudos 2 Review

Somehow I got sidetracked from my usual game playing and decided to support an Indie game developer by purchasing the game, Kudos 2. The game has been getting a lot more press recently, especially after the uproar from EA fans concerning games like Spore, Mass Effect and especially The Sims 2 (which is where I suspect, Kudos 2 is getting a lot of converts). Anyway, without much further ado, let's see if this game is worth the AUD$30 I paid for it!

Sound (2/5)
Sometimes the sound effects from your meowing cat (if you happen to own one) can get a bit annoying, but overall the sound effects are as you expect and thankfully (besides the cat) are used sparingly.

Music (4/5)
For an indie game, quite a bit of effort was made in ensuring the music was of high quality. I would've expected MIDI tracks but OGG files are used instead and they're composed by Jesse Hopkins who isn't a stranger to writing soundtracks for games, or film for that matter. A couple of tunes may grate on the nerves of people as being too cheerful and light-hearted but hey I think they fit the theme of the game just fine.

Graphics (2/5)
The graphics in this game are functional but they are drawn by an established comic book artist, so they are high quality images, although they are static images. True graphics don't make the game and having too much "bling" can distract from the gameplay but a bit more immersion on some scenes instead of simply displaying some text would've been a welcome change. I like to compare it to perhaps some old Japanese adventure games like the "Princess Maker" series or "True Love" (by the way, not recommended for kids even though they have deceptively innocent and cute names) where you're treated to a scene where your character is shown at almost full height discussing with other characters through speech bubbles. In fact for a more recent example, see even "Puzzle Quest" which is obviously inspired by these old Japanese games of the 90s. With Kudos 2 you only see little portraits of your friends' faces which as mentioned before, works, but the extra icing on the cake would be seeing them in their own scenes. It just helps with the immersion :).

Plot (3/5)
No real plot in this besides you're a 20 year old given 10 years to do pretty much whatever you want. Since the game is pretty much a sandbox game (like The Sims) the plot is determined by you.

I was hoping for Kudos 2 to be similar to the brilliant life simulation game Alter Ego however it lacks the depth and research that went into its production plus it only spans for 10 years rather than an entire lifetime. Basically, the objective of the game is up to you - what I think you're meant to do though is progress as far as you can in a particular career path (there's quite a few to choose from) by the end of the ten years you're given. You basically pick what your character does for each day of their life until the ten years is up (that's right, every day of the week) so even if you were to play the game quickly (i.e. skip menus and such) it'd take a good 5-6 hours to complete one game. Now whether those hours are any fun though is another question entirely, however the game does somehow get you hooked if you're making yourself career goals and such or wanting to buy a new item from the shops, akin to the "Just One More Turn" phenomenon you get with Sid Meier games - it even has an option at the end which allows you to continue playing when your time is up!

Between those goalposts though there's a lot of clicking involved to skip bits of text that aren't terribly important and only an occasional mini-game (if you choose to do certain activities or interact with certain items) that breaks the monotony - it would've been nice if they included more of those mini-games! With respect to the waiting though, what's even worse is that the part of town you live in seems to be the less fashionable one, since you can bet that you'd be robbed/mugged at least twice a year, resulting in your hard earned funds and items going down the drain. Sure you can train yourself in kung fu for self-defence and install an alarm at your home but it takes an investment of time (and money in the case of the alarm) to get them - a bit hard if you're getting robbed before you get a chance to buy that alarm!

Kudos should go to the developer though (mind the pun) to the way friendships can affect your stats. Sticking around certain friends will affect your statistics and ultimately will affect what sort of activities are available to you or even what jobs you can apply for. For example, an acting job that requires charisma may be gained if you spend lots of time with a friend who has the "charismatic" trait - it just rubs off on you.

Replayability (3/5)
There are several career paths to pursue in this game and a variety of friends to make too. There is probably as much replayability in this as your average Sims game although unfortunately, unlike The Sims 2, your character doesn't truly age and are also unable to pass their genes to the next generation. You also don't get as much customisation as you do in The Sims either - however, for a game that costs only AUD$30, it's not that bad. One thing I would've liked to see (and once again I refer to Japanese adventure games or even the venerable Jones in the Fast Lane) is that there doesn't seem like much of a challenge. You play until your ten years is up and you get rewarded with the same stats screen as you do for every other year when it's your birthday - except it has fireworks. What would've been much better if they could show you how well you did in terms of the different areas of your life (i.e. similar to the aspirations in The Sims 2 or even the career, wealth, etc. bars in Jones in the Fast Lane) - doing so would encourage people to try another past hence resulting in more impetus to replay the game. Or like the Japanese adventure games (and a lot of modern western RPGs), perhaps there should be an epilogue sequence to see what the rest of your life is like based on the actions you picked. There's a lot of potential here that's been untapped.

There's quite a few pluses and minuses to this game that overall cancel each other out, we'll start with the good.

This game was originally brought to my attention since the developer, Cliff Harris is passionate about developing fairly priced games which don't treat genuine, law-abiding customers, like pirates. So he's proud to say that all his games don't come with DRM which is a good thing in my books. Even better, not only can you be content in the knowledge that no extra spyware is installed on your computer and that you've got unlimited installations of the product, but the game is very easy to acquire. It took me a grand total of 5 minutes between deciding that I wanted to buy the game and actually starting to play it. All you do is provide your credit card details and then you can download the installer. Simple (and that's the way it should be).

Okay now how about the bad? The UI can be annoying sometimes - especially when you've got several activities that you can choose from later in the game. This will result in you having to click six or seven times as you cycle through to the activity you want to do. It perhaps would've been better if a drop-down box or radial menu was implemented instead. Also even though the version I acquired was the 1.03 version and it had handled a lot of the bugs, the game still had a few visual bugs (e.g. attribute change indicators floating in random places) and it crashed a couple of times too, but from the looks of the forums, at least Mr. Harris seems keen to fix his baby provided people give good instructions on how to replicate the bugs.

Overall - 60%
Kudos 2 as a game is a fun little distraction but at AUD$30 it's on the borderline for good value. If more effort was made into making the gameplay fun and rewarding, Cliff would be onto a real winner here - a game that I'd gladly pay double the price for. As it is though I could only recommend this game to teenagers who are interested in life sims or perhaps disgruntled Sims fans who hate EA's choice of DRM. The game isn't bad, for the price, but with only a little bit more effort, it could've been a whole lot better.