Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil Spill Cleaner

Here I am once again, finally slipping back into my regular schedule after starting a work placement a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I'm ready to write a review this week. So, is it good game or bad?


Well, that's depressing. And with that in mind, I decided to subject myself to a game based on the most depressing news story of the last month, that of the unending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yep, Oil Spill Cleaner is a light-hearted (at least, I think it is) little arcade game that I think was trying to transmit an environmentalist message but that got too caught up in upsetting people deeply. Crude oil is flowing into the Gulf at an alarming rate and, in a move that will surprise no one who watched the response to Hurricane Katrina, you and you alone have been given the job of cleaning it up.

Your little boat is equipped with a vacuum designed to scoop the oil out of the water and you work eight hour shifts, between which you can buy upgrades. Above all, you have to stop the oil from reaching the Louisiana coastline, where it will destroy the natural habitat of the animals there and result in those photos of oil-covered seagulls that make my fiancée cry. I will say that Oil Spill Cleaner plays pretty well, but it's no more complicated than having the boat follow your mouse pointer around the screen. It isn't exactly pretty, either. Maybe games that look like they belong on an Atari 2600 are in vogue right now, but in my view the retro thing should be done lightly. At the very least, upgrade your graphics to Commodore 64 level, guys!

The ship upgrades are all effective, I suppose, but what annoys me is how one can't skip an upgrade level, even if you've got the cash. You've got to buy each upgrade in its correct order, which sounds like a waste of money to me (but then, I'm not a government official or the vice-president of a multinational corporation, so what do I know?) What really grinds my gears is that, with every level, the oil spill naturally gets faster. So all you're really doing is keeping pace with the oil. You never really get an advantage over it - in fact, it's pretty depressing to clear up a section of water just to see it turn black again almost instantaneously.

In the end, sometimes you just have to approach the oil in the same manner any self-respecting D & D gamer approaches trolls and kill it with fire. This is actually a lot of fun, but it costs you 10,000 points a shot, so know when to use it - usually when you reach the point of total boredom.

Yes, that would be Oil Spill Cleaner's biggest flaw: for all of the frenetic bouncing back and forth, scooping up crude oil to help save the turtles, the game is remarkably dull. Every level is simply the same slog for 96 seconds, just a little faster. And as the game goes on, you start to understand how those dealing with the real oil spill must feel when they watch millions of gallons of black death seep into the ocean. You never, ever get ahead of the spill and you'll never, ever finish cleaning it up. It's only inevitable that oil will hit the coastline and then you'll have to focus on cleaning that mess up, too. I don't know if this game was supposed to educate or entertain, but it did neither. All it did was make me flail angrily and curse the folly of man. I'm pretty sure video games shouldn't do that.


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