Black and White is a very difficult game to review. On the one hand, it is certainly groundbreaking — different than anything you’ve played before, stunning at times, visually engaging always. On the other hand, as mentioned by other reviewers, gameplay eventually becomes its biggest obstacle in being a truly legendary game.

Black and White is really 2 games in one. Certainly the most fun in the game comes from training your creature, via standard punishment and reinforcement schedules (as a psychologist, I found this aspect of the game to be a blast), to behave in certain ways. You do have quite a bit of freedom, although not unlimited. You must wait for your creature to engage in some behavior (chosen from a finite set of programmed options) and then either pet or punish to respectively increase or decrease the future probability of that behavior occurring again. In this manner, you can mold your creature in a variety of ways — my creature eventually became an angelic samaritan, who liked to wander the countryside, provide food for the hungry, and dance with children. In contrast, my girlfriend’s creature liked to throw cows at trees for target practice, and threw a tantrum (literally) every time she tried to potty-train it. If one was to ignore the dictates of Black and White, one could spend all his/her time simply playing with the creature — and I suspect that many people who buy Black and White will do exactly that. However, if you’re like me and actually want to play through the scenarios and maybe win the game, you’re training regimen eventually becomes quite delineated — you have to train your creature to cast certain spells, to help you take care of the populace (and/or attack the enemy), and take care of its own needs without your supervision.

Because you’ll need the spare time to complete the second “game within the game” of Black and White. This second aspect is basically a real-time god-game, where you’re responsible for the growth and development of a particular culture (group of villages). In addition, you must constantly be working towards converting the followers of whatever other gods are involved in the scenario. This might have been fun, except that micromanagement becomes your worst enemy and eventually you become absolutely sick of running around the map, feeding these people, attacking those people, checking in on your creature, building houses there, etc. Too much — and although your creature is supposed to be your primary helper to reduce work-load, they typically don’t help enough.