Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review a Bad Game Day: Super Noah's Ark 3D

Note: A few months ago, Eric Bailey of alerted me to August 8, a new holiday known as "Review a bad game day." The full list of participants is at And since we're a Catholic web site, why not get religious with our choice?

Love them or hate them, you have to admire Wisdom Tree for trying their best to get "Christian" games into the market. Which isn't a bad thing: if the original (awful) TMNT can get a release, why not a game based on the Bible? I actually really enjoyed their game Joshua, so to completely goof on them would be dishonest of me.

So in 1994, Wisdom Tree brought us Super Noah's Ark 3D, which is basically a clone of the First-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D. In the latter, your character is trying to escape from a Nazi prison, while the former has you take on the role of Noah and put down an animal uprising.

Yes, on the ark, the animals are getting restless, and you have a slingshot to quell this mutiny.

Pointing out the flaws in this concept is ridiculously easy. I mowed down the exact same goat at least a dozen times, and there's no way that a pair of goats could reproduce that much in the time that Noah was on the Ark. Also, Noah uses a slingshot to give the animals "feed" which instantly puts them to sleep. Those animals are going to wake up soon, and unless Noah never plans to back in that area of the Ark, it's a futile attempt.

Besides, where are his three sons? Shouldn't they be helping out too? Lazy bums.

But yes, this is a video game, and to say that the creators can't use artistic license to make a good game experience would be hogwash on my behalf. So I won't hold those flaws against the game.

Playing through the game courtesy of an emulator (I didn't own an SNES in 1994), I was struck by just how well it played. Since SNA3D is basically a clone of Wolfenstein, the same control options are available: You can use either the gamepad or the SNES mouse. The controls are nearly perfect: there's no lag or delay when you press a button. As a gamer, good controls are something you don't really appreciate until you play a game with broken controls. And for that, I give a tip of my cap to Wisdom Tree for making sure the game controlled flawlessly.

Graphically speaking, for the most part this game has the same quality as Wolfenstein 3D. Here's a comparison of the doors.

Getting these kinds of games to work on the SNES is no small chore, so the 2012 me can't fault either for the horribly pixelated walls, doors and enemies. In both games, enemies at a distance are just a block of shaded pixels. I give Wisdom Tree a pat on the back for making a game as graphically sound as a company with a presumably bigger budget, but iD released Wolfenstein 3D a year earlier, so on that note, you'd think Wisdom Tree could have improved on the graphics.

Where Wolfenstein 3D succeeds graphically are the powerups: they're different colors than the walls. In SNA3D, the first aid kits are the exact same color as the walls, which might cause you to miss a few. There was one instance where the there were three powerups that I originally missed due to their camoflauge.

As far as sound goes, the effects could have been better: The music playing throughout the game sounds pleasant enough, which is important when you only have one track, but some of the grunts sound like someone yelling into a $25 USB headset. The animals make a cute snoring noise when you put them to sleep, so that's great reinforcement when you tell your child playing the game that the animal didn't really die (along with the Zzzzz's coming from their head).

OK, so Wisdom Tree did a decent job on the technical aspects, but is the game fun to play? It's surprisingly enjoyable for 15 minutes. After that, it gets repetitive and yawn-inducing. Problem is, that's the same effect that the other SNES FPS games have on me, so it's not just Wisdom Tree's piece of software that shows it's age.

My huge gripe about the game is that bulls and goats can attack from a distance, but you don't actually see an attack animation, except for your health dwindling down. I hate to make this article a giant Wolfenstein comparison, but in that game, you see the soldiers raising their guns in the air. Here, you just have a bull sitting there looking at you.

Other than that, it's a competent game that will fill a nostalgic FPS thirst if you can get over the cutesy aspect of the game. So why is this a "bad game?"

Because there is nothing innovative about. Fun twist on the storyline, but other than graphics and sound, this is the EXACT same game as Wolfenstein 3D. Wisdom Tree could have added a few fun tweaks and twist to the FPS genre, such as multiplayer, a jump button, melee attacks, and so on. Instead of doing something different, they just played copycat.

Not to go on a rant, but that's the problem with Christian media. So many times we just duplicate successful secular ideas instead of being original and coming up with something new. That's why Busted Halo is the best Christian radio program. That's why Fr. Roderick's podcast is so great to listen to: they try new things and aren't afraid to be different.

SNA3D got the basics right. But a lack of innovation makes this a "bad game." Then again, we in Christian media could stand to learn a thing or two from this title. So we don't make the same mistakes.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. There are not one, but TWO problems (at the very least) with Catholics ripping off secular ideas. One, plagiarism is wrong. Even you are Catholic. In fact, it's more wrong, because you are Catholic, and should know better.

Secondly, it's usually even more wrong, because you cannot copy the devil's work (something bad/sinful) and slap Catholic makeup on it, and think it's going to be good. Generally speaking, whatever was sinful or bad about the game that was ripped off, is now also sinful or bad (or stupid, etc) about the game produced.

Then there's the notorious THIRD bad thing, about almost every Catholic game I have ever seen: frankly, they're stupid (if not blasphemous, irreverent, sacrilegious, etc.). So stupid, that it's painful to think the name Catholic is on it.

Normally, "stupid" isn't an acceptable complaint in my book, because normally when people use that word, they're abusing it... substituting a wrong word for whatever they really thought was wrong with something. But in this case ("Catholic" games), there really IS no better word. There's silly, there's cute, and both of them are not bad things. But stupid, as in idiotic... is just that. And most Catholic games I have ever laid eyes on, are simply stupid. Painfully so, to be honest. (Aside, of course, from any actual Catholicism in them.)

As long as people keep producing stupid games from stolen ideas, the Catholic game makers will continue to be a laughingstock (if they are even good enough for that) of the gaming world. And anyone who thinks that games of that quality are going to jump-start the industry (on our side) are more than a little optimistic.

Having gotten the opportunity, I'm now trying to make some cute, silly, hopefully not-so-stupid video games that, while not explicitly Catholic, are at least safe for Catholics to play without compromising their morality or souls. Better to make a silly, non-religious game that is actually playable and genuinely fun, than "go for the gold" if you're going to just end up with something that nobody in their right mind would touch.

The motives are no doubt noble, but the attempts... -sigh-

dustin (The 16-bit Catholic) said...

Thanks for the reply. I guess it's important to point out that the game isn't explicitly a Catholic, or even Christian, game (Noah is prominent in Judaism and Islam as well). The point stands though: Blatant rip-offs aren't something that should be encouraged.

Although calling Wolfenstein 3D a sinful game might be going overboard a little, you have a valid point.

Anonymous said...

When I said sinful, I was thinking more of other games, actually.

The whole first person shooter thing is an interesting question, but I don't know that we can say "it's evil because people are shooting people". That would be like saying children are sinning when they play cowboys and indians. Now if it's shooting people just to shoot people, versus, say, you're a soldier in WWII... I think there's a difference.

But when I see something like a "Catholic fortune telling game" (for those who don't know, that's a sin), or a "Catholic" game with a busty babe on the cover... I just want to cringe. And those are real examples!

It seems people have no sense of standards when it comes to launching a counterattack on the non-Catholic gaming industry... even if they defeat their own purposes in doing it.

Sorry for them, but... you can't have "Catholic sins". Either it's Catholic, or it's sinful (or alternately, in error)... but sins (and errors) do not belong to the Faith.

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