Sims for soap opera fans

How would old Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and other child-friendly characters, feel about this title from Buena Vista, the Disney Company's interactive entertainment producer?

dh disk 88 (photo credit: )
dh disk 88
(photo credit: )
Desperate Housewives, a set of two CD-ROMs in English by Liquid Entertainment and Buena Vista Games for Atari, distributed with a 32-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Atari-Israel, requires Windows XP and a 1.4 ghz Pentium 4 PC or better, for ages 16 through adult, NIS 188. Rating: *** 1/2 With such a dearth of computer games for teenage girls and young women, it's sad that those that do arrive here are mostly Barbie games focused on hairstyles and fashions or this one, based on the popular TV soap opera and full of mild violence, sexual themes, simulated gambling and the use of drugs. The opening screen shows an Eve character covered in strategic points with leaves and standing below an ominous snake. How would old Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and other child-friendly characters, feel about this title from Buena Vista, the Disney Company's interactive entertainment producer? Are all game designers male chauvinists? Or are they both men and women who think female gamers of all ages are empty headed? But the Desperate Housewives franchise is certainly making money, appearing not only on TV and as software but also in a board game, an on-line shop, cellphone ringtones, expensive fashions and a soon-to-appear cookbook. You become the latest housewife to move to fictional Wisteria Lane in this story-driven adventure/simulation. Mary Alice Young (voiced by TV show actress Brenda Strong) is the narrator who interacts with fellow desperate housewives Susan Mayer, Bree Van de Kamp, Lynette Scavo, Gabrielle Solises and Edie Brit. Your mission is to gossip, upgrade your home furnishings, appear in fashion shows, flirt with (in fact seduce) available and not-so-available men (but you have only a "kiss" option with your husband), entertain and spy on neighbors to uncover the "dirt." There are a dozen missions in all. Fortunately, there are not too many Sims-like housekeeping chores except taking a shower (naked bodies are pixellated to ensure modesty but women hit the sack wearing just their underwear) and straightening out the bed, and you don't have to travel far - except for the shopping mall that you reach by jumping into your big car - because most of the action occurs solely on your street. When you're not busy directing the characters where to go and what to do by clicking on carpets in suburban villas or choosing among pull-down menus for appropriate dialogue, you can opt for mini-activities that include gardening (watering, spraying pesticide and choosing new plants are among the chores), cooking and Texas Hold'em poker with other housewives. Begin by creating your own character: Choose hairstyles, skin color and faces (here comes Barbie again) and give yourself a name. Then customize your husband and your son. A short tutorial shows you the ropes of reconnoitering through the neighborhood, visiting homes, checking inventory, controlling camera angles and using hints. But there is a twist to the story, as your shapely character suffers from amnesia, having lost her memory two decades ago; you have to depend on the husband to tell you what she was like before this happened, but his story is not 100 percent accurate. Although the female characters look very much like those in the TV show, the graphics are only good but not outstanding, and you can complete all the missions in less than nine or 10 hours. There are also a few bugs, and the pace is quite slow, especially if your PC is not high powered. If moving the characters tires out out, you can only double their speed by clicking on an icon but you can't make them run. This ABC-TV series has been very popular in the US, although apparently less so here, where it was broadcast via satellite for only several months on YES. Most Israeli women and teenagers face different realities and have much less free time, living very different lives than American suburbanites. But perhaps The Sims-style of this game will attract some adherents here, even if the content and the heavy requirement of English proficiency are less likely to attract large numbers of Israeli customers. What it does more than anything is promote the pre-1960s image of women: The late queen of feminism Betty Friedan would certainly not have approved of Desperate Housewives.