I've been asked to write about a new game from Barclay's Bank, 56 Sage Street. Who am I to say no?
56 Sage Street is a web-based ‘accumulation game’, with ties to social media channels such as twitter and facebook. After having your bag stolen, your (unnamed) character is rescued by the mysterious “Mr C”, who is looking for someone to take over his crumbling empire (having based all his major life decisions on Gene Wilder movies). However there is a catch – to prove your trust worthiness, you must first perform menial tasks for him.
The game aims to teach social responsibility and involves balancing your finances with other factors, such as your energy and appearance in order to become the next Mr C. Barclays are hoping the game will teach financial responsibility as well as some valuable life lessons, while advertising their own services. Oops, your bike got nicked? Should have bought some insurance from your friendly neighbourhood bank.
As with last week’s pong review, I’ll be looking at the game based around Desurvire’s playability heuristics, drawing out some key game play and story rules which have most relevance.
56 Sage Street showed a marked improvement in many playability fields over Pong…
The story arises through game play
Mr C, being a man of mystery, does little to explain himself. You are dropped off in a hostile world, with only £4 in your pocket, and with no clear idea of what is going on. Instead of being narrative heavy, the story gradually emerges as you play, maintaining a sense of mystery and discovery throughout the game play.
The game world reacts to the players actions
The game demands you to balance your reputation, health and finances, and this has an effect on how the game reacts towards you, through the interactions you have and how you are treated. For example, sleep in a skip, and people will not be impressed, losing you potential business opportunities.
Game play variety
Although the main interface involves clicking on the world and selecting an option from a pop-up menu, this is frequently broken up through the use of mini-games, including a time-management game in the café, and a mavis-beacon style typing test. These break up the potentially repetitive main game, and often come as a welcome break.
See the game in action…
Where playability can be improved:
However, as an audience who are interested in usability and user experience, there were a number of issues where improvement could be made…
No clear tutorial
Perhaps keeping in character, you’re dropped into the game not knowing anything ,and with no clear instructions (beyond “click on things”). This mean’t I wasn’t sure what interactions were available to me, or what affect my actions would have in the game (such as not paying a busker making me a bad person!). I also had no idea of the conditions required to ‘win’ the game, and had to consult the ‘game guide’ to discover that I had to make money (but still no idea on how).
The game does offer two characters, yet there does seem to be a large degree of overlap from their campaigns, which could hurt re-playability. However, like many games these days, it does offer achievements, which give meta-goals to complete while playing the game, and potentially increase the life-span of a game.
The game takes a long time to play, and requires facebook connect to save – I don’t use facebook , so I couldn’t save my progress. If I did use facebook, I’d be worried that the game might spam messages without my consent if I did connect (games often do!). So – no saving for me!
Does the game teach financial responsibility to teenagers? I think in this respect the game is a success, and gives an interesting interpretation of a potentially very dull topic. The game also avoids bombarding the player with advertising at the expense of game play, which was a worry, and hence is nice to see!
The game is also fun. If you liked Sim City, or enjoy checking your finances each month, you might love this. It is not however edge-of-your-seat gaming. There’s a really interesting post about the background behind the game by the developers.
So, the game does teach financial responsibility, in an interesting manner. It also gives questionable advice about getting in cars with strangers. Maybe that’s a topic for the sequel.
Heard enough? Try the free game out for yourself
This has been a sponsored post,