Sep 21, 2011
If the news hits a black hole before it graces your screen, Phone Story comes with quite a bit of hype around it, and not the good kind either. The game was supposed to grace iOS devices last week. But when Apple realized the game was essentially using the manufacturing processes of their hugely popular products as a way to make a political stance against their labor practices, well, Apple was none too pleased. Why Apple did not catch this before it hit the App Store for a short amount of time is baffling. Apple once again shows they do not have a sense of humor when it comes to them being put in a negative spotlight.
So, how is the game that Apple felt a need to pull off the market? Really, it is not that all entertaining or enlightening. Players follow the “life cycle” of phones, or dang near any electronic device really. It starts with an 8-bit like face appearing on the screen saying how it is going to talk about the history of the phone, while providing entertainment. The story starts in the Congo with to force children to mine the metals necessary to start the manufacturing process, all at gun point. From there, the game moves to China, and the player has to save workers from committing suicide by moving a trampoline into place to save the falling workers. After this fiasco, it is time to throw phones at eager customers, and the story ends by recycling and burning various components of the phone. Do keep in mind, the whole time while “playing” the game, a narrator is telling terrible stories about the process, like emphasizing children mining minerals or the hazardous fumes emitting from burning electronic devices.
All these “atrocities” are presented in a 8-bit art style. The visuals are bland with flat colors, lackluster animations, and extremely simplistic sprite design. The voice that is gabbing on and on in each stage sounds like a synthesizer gone awry. It can be hard to understand at times, and the reverb from it is rather annoying. More work could have went into the presentation to make this game stand out, drive the points home, and make players really think about how it is the very phone they are playing on is manufactured.
The story mode takes maybe five minutes to complete, and then an obsolescence mode is unlocked. This mode repeats the four levels over and over, with goals becoming harder to obtain. The only redeeming factor in all this is that the developers are claiming to donate all revenues from the sale of the game to charities working to solve the very issues mentioned in the game.
As a game trying to provide some sort of entertainment, there is not enough substance to warrant a purchase. The political statements it tries to drive home have made news headlines before, and it certainly will not be changing the world. Those that want to see what all the fuss is about while donating to charities, and go in knowing there is not much entertainment value here, can find the game here.