Review - The Life Stage: Virtual House

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Trev
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Review - The Life Stage: Virtual House

Post by Trev » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:09 am

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The cool (but certainly a bit bizarre) animated intro nicely prepares for the graphical sheen this title possesses. While other 93’ release were pumping out partial screen grainy openings, Life Stage somehow managed to pull off a borderless clear intro (the look reminds me of the later Sega Saturn game, Clockwork Knight) Watching a 3DO with an exaggerated shape scuttling about like a roomba robot vac, than sprouting arms and drinking a cup of tea, how can this not bring a grin to your face? :P The catchy j-pop playing in the background certainly seems to fit the cultural visuals.

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In game ditches the cartoon look for what often approaches photo realistic. This must have been simply jaw dropping for ’93! Heck I was still surprised several times viewing this title 15+ yrs later. It reminds me, of all games, Shenmue :o in a very small way (and not just for being on a console ahead of its time) Both have you walking through graphically detailed buildings interacting with a bunch of objects.

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Life Stage is far far away from an adventure game like Shenmue though, so where does the familiar interaction come into play? My first example (which will also cover the mandatory audio discussion) is the stereo. For the longest time I thought Life Stage was essentially a silent title. It certainly doesn’t have to be though. For you aren’t limited to just walking up to and admiring the stereo, you can turn it on. Even more of a surprise is that the thing churns out some high quality professional tracks! There are no lyrics but I love a good instrumental, and these tunes definitely are good (no generic tunes, elevator music, or public domain jingles here) Several are actually polished knockoffs (I thought I heard anywhere from Kenny G all the way to movie soundtracks) There are 17 tracks in all, and all of them unique. The rich audio dwarfed the cartridge music being produced at the time. My one complaint is that you can’t move around while listening.

My second example of interaction? The television. Over a dozen clips are available for your viewing. They are short, but the fact that they are included at all speaks highly to the ambitions this title was aiming for. High production value is evident! :)

There are many other objects available to interact with (click on a vacuum and hear it run, touch the phone and it will ring, flush the toilet and … well, you get the idea :oops: ) It is fun seeing what you can click in each room. And I enjoyed exploring the variety of highly detailed buildings. But, the game wasn’t designed to be a flashy tech demo … the player is meant not just to view pre-rendered sample buildings but to construct their own. Here is where the problems mount.
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Want to hear my list of complaints. Sorry, you are just going to have to ….

“WAIT FOR A WHILE”

That lovely sentence appears fat too often in this title, and with the wait averaging between 30-40 seconds you’ll quickly grow to loathe the above phrase. :x It was the main thing that squashed my desire to build a place of my own. But it certainly wasn’t the only. The silence (absent the stereo if you stay near it) really stood out, adding a layer of dullness. The icon based menu (with no words) had me reaching for the manual too much (bad news if you only have a loose copy) And in game, though not as painfully slow as I feared after experiencing the loads (you can click on a door from anywhere in the room for instance to exit) still had me wishing it was quicker.

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Unique, ambitious, stunning visuals, brilliant music … and yet I can’t recommend it. Check that, I can’t recommend it as it was intended. As a tech demo I can, but Life stage needed more time in the cooker (Would have been interesting to see how this fared if it had come out in 1996) Detail should have been sacrificed for speed.

-Trev
Last edited by Trev on Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lemmi
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Re: Review - The Life Stage: Virtual House

Post by Lemmi » Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:51 am

Trev wrote:“WAIT FOR A WHILE”
That lovely sentence appears fat too often in this title, and with the wait averaging between 30-40 seconds you’ll quickly grow to loathe the above phrase. :x It was the main thing that squashed my desire to build a place of my own. -Trev
thats what killed it for me, but i went right into building my house and after the 3rd or 4th accidental leaving the room added to the many times the load screen came up normally, i quit and went back to dragon lore :D
i would have liked to build something but its just to time consuming/boring

i didnt even know about the stereo or Tv thing because i never checked out a demo house
Ex-3DO collector extraordinaire , but i still have my collection
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Trev
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Post by Trev » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:19 am

I stumbled upon the stereo purely by accident. I thought it was just eye candy & remember being stunned when I first heard it play. Not mentioned in the booklet, which seems to only discuss the essentials.

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Post by bitrate » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:18 pm

This is one of the few titles for the 3DO that I don't belive I have ever even booted. I'm curious now, and will give it a shot.
As always, the reviews are much appreciated Trev.

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Post by Trev » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:04 pm

Thanks. Glad you enjoy them. :)

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