Genre: Simulation, MMO
Developer: Wild Tangent
Publisher: Wild Tangent
Release Date: June 20, 2005
My meeting first appointment at E3 turned out to be my meeting with Wild Tangent. It was an appropriately odd start to what was a very odd week; after all, going into the meeting, I knew nothing about the developer other than a rumor about them having made an RTS played via WinAmp’s browser. It turns out that they specialize in making fairly simple PC games, the sort of stuff that you can run on basically any computer or just play online. These are the sorts of games you read lots about in the mainstream press and that no gamer who reads websites like this has ever heard of.
People do play these games, though. Before I slid into the tawdry life of a games journalist, I was working to get my Master’s degree. This meant having a part-time job as a graduate assistant, which mostly consisted of light office work interspersed with sitting around and abusing the office’s internet connection. Most of the other girls who worked in the office loved web-games like the Wild Tangent stuff, because you could play them to waste time at work and they’d even run on the crappy government computers in the office. For people who aren’t gamers, and especially for women, these online games can become a crack-like addiction.
Mojo Master seems to be an attempt to get more men and “traditional” sorts of gamers to play these simple web games, and by web game standards it’s a gigantic graphical extravaganza. It’s also a horribly, horribly blatant advertisement for a brand of men’s hygiene products called AXE. Don’t let memories of the horrid old Yo! Noid game for the NES start drifting around your head, though; this title is a bit more in the spirit of the Spot: the Game, a perfectly functional game that happens to be wrapped up in an advertisement. In the case of Mojo Master, AXE products figure into the game as power-ups that refill your life meter. In context, it’s silly as heck (even the game developers cracked up while trying to explain this in the demo), but it’s fairly forgivable given that the game is free to begin with.
As for what you actually do in Mojo Master: well, it’s a game of seduction. When you start the game you create your virtual avatar, a guy whose appearance you can customize to a certain extent. You’ll select your Physical and Mental type, which are based on an elemental system (Fire, Ice, Earth, Light, or Dark). The element types indicate a certain kind of appearance and personality, but you can customize yourself more throughout the game. As you travel to different locales, done via a basic point-and-click interface, you will encounter many hot women, modeled in 3D via mo-cap to use reasonably realistic gestures and poses. The women also have Physical and Mental element types, and appearances patterned after one of the five “iconic” women who represent their element. Variations in costume and coloring create about 100 reasonably dissimilar looks for women in the game.
You accomplish seduction in Mojo Master by running your opponent’s seduction meter down to 0. When trying to seduce a particular female, the way your elemental properties interact with hers will determine how much mojo damage each of your flirting moves does. Generally, you will do the most damage when your Physical element matches the woman’s, and your Mental type is the opposite. It is possible to win seduction battles with other types of opponents, but only after playing the game for awhile and earning a lot of power-ups and AXE buffs for your character.
Seduction battle plays out, honestly, a bit like one of those CCG-based video games. Each player can use a particular kind of Move on their turn, and each Move is named for an “actual” flirting technique. Wild Tangent’s developers claimed that they did extensive research into people’s flirting habits to form the basis of the various Moves and their results, right down to using actual common lines and moves. They claimed to have begun also using some moves and lines themselves with great success in real life. I can sort of see this with Moves that amount to “look the other person up and down with sultry look in eyes”, but not so much with the Moves that amount to saying things like “I like cute puppies and kitties”.
Judging from the demo, there doesn’t seem to be any way to mount an active defense against your opponent’s Moves; you’ll just take however much Mojo damage based on your character’s stats and equipment (or “bling” as it is called in-game – no, seriously). The combat will continue until someone’s Mojo meter is reduced to 0. If it’s you, the girl gives you the brush-off and you’ll have to try again if you want to beat her. If it’s the girl, then she was overwhelmed by your manly charm. You’ll get her phone number and some other in-game rewards in the form of AXE and bling. In the online multiplayer version of the game, you will basically compete against other players to see how can seduce women the fastest, using everything you’ve earned by playing the single player mode. Wild Tangent is planning on having online tournaments with cash prizes to help encourage people to play the game.
Wild Tangent is pretty up-front about how much of an advertisement for AXE Mojo Master is going to be. The game will be linked from AXE’s web site, AXE logos are all over the game’s menu screens, and then there’s the aforementioned use of AXE as a power-up in the game. Still, the Wild Tangent folks seem to have made a game functions just fine as a fun little net game, with far prettier graphics and better gameplay than you have any right to expect from a free download. Whether or not Mojo Master has the depth to keep people hooked remains to be seen, but it’ll probably be plenty good to kill time at the office with when it hits at the end of this month.
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