There's plenty of room to make jokes about a party game centering around biblical subject matter--and I was straight up guilty of making half of those jokes, until I got a chance to play the game during E3.
The game itself includes a collection of roughly 20 different party games. The games can be played individually or as part of a game show. As many as four people can participate.
During the game show, contestants spin a money wheel that lands on spots containing questions or challenges. The questions, not surprisingly, are about basic bible questions that anyone raised around Christianity should know (e.g. "Who did the Lord tell to build the Ark?"). Each question has four multiple choice answers represented by individual buttons on the controller. The first person to buzz in with the correct answer gets the most points, the second person gets less, and so on. Challenge questions put players in the middle of a brief 1- or 2-minute action task.
The party games that come up during challenges are actually quite fun. They're easy to play too-most only use the directional pad and X button. They're all loosely based on biblical events... very loosely. One, called Jonah's Whale, has characters riding a whale's waterspout. The goal is to push the button and make the spout raise you up so that you can pass through rings, which earn you points. Another game, called Jacob's Ladder, has you doing just that--climbing a ladder. Different directions are shown on-screen above the characters' heads, and you need to press the ones that correspond to you to make your character climb faster.
The game that had me smiling the most was Parting The Red Sea, which had players running down a race course in between the two split sides of the Red Sea. You need to move left and right to dodge obstacles, or jump over them, and try to outrun the other players. Hitting an obstacle or running into the seawalls will slow you down.
It's clear that Crave is serious about making this a good game. First off, the game isn't too heavy-handed in its content. Secondly, the party games (at least the 8 that were in the E3 demo) are simple and fun. Any four people that enjoy playing Mario Party together will enjoy playing this game. Assuming, of course, that they have an interest in Bible trivia.
Lastly, the graphics aren't bad either. The characters are drawn in a cartoon-ish, big-headed style--like most games these days--and the environments in the party games put the PS2's horsepower to use. The wave effects in the Jonah's Whale game were spectacular. No one will compare this game to God of War (certainly it is the antithesis of it), but the visuals are as sharp and smooth as anything else that's decent on the system. Also, the game handles four-player split-screen without any hiccups.
We have to reserve final judgment until the game comes out (or is that the Lord's job?), especially since the E3 demo only had 8 games running and the sound was inaudible due to the harangue of 100+ games all being pumped at full volume... but we're already impressed that Crave seems to be doing The Bible Game up right.
5/18/2005 Frank Provo