by Chris Scott
reviewed on PC
Games based on media properties are certainly not a new thing so the existence of a game based on the popular FOX television drama, House M.D. should be no surprise to anyone. Legacy Interactive has adapted the show into an adventure/puzzle title for the PC (and the Nintendo DS) that plays out like a shortened season of the show. The idea of an adventure/puzzle game based on medical mysteries featuring the sarcastic Doctor House sounds like a solid idea. Sadly the game is about as fun as watching the show with the volume off.
Spaced out over the course of five episodes, House M.D. tasks players with solving some of the craziest illnesses conceived. One of the big draws of House is the delivery of Hugh Laurie, who makes House into an engaging character. But when given the character as a static image with text based dialogue, House stops being engaging and starts to be annoying. While it is understandable that the game has no voice work due to its budget pricing, the lack of it really hurts the feel of the game. As many a writer will tell you, sarcasm loses some of its humorous bite when delivered via writing.
Without the primary focus of the show to help drive it, the game has to rely on the medical mysteries themselves along with the gameplay to succeed and this is where the game falls apart nearly completely. To solve these medical mysteries the player must examine the patient, come up with a differential diagnosis while working with your team, administer medicine and investigate surroundings. All of this is done via an assortment of mini-games that are often times unintuitive, slightly broken, boring, or a mix of the three.
Much like the show, the game has extremely varied cases for the player to work on. While the mysteries to solve are different, often times the approach to solving them is the same. I suppose this is a true fact of the medical profession, after all being a real doctor is not like television but it does not make for a fun game.
There are three mini-games that plague the game with their over-use in each episode. The first is the patient examination mini-game which is near identical each and every time. Feel here, listen there, look here and ask the patient questions that sometimes pertain to the examination and sometimes do not. The second is the differential diagnosis mini-game. It has a selection of floating diagnoses moving about the screen and the player has to select the correct one based on empty spaces for the word. And the third and final one is the blood drawing mini-game that involves the player clicking on various medical instruments and moving the cursor in the correct direction. All of these show up far too often over the course of the five episodes but they are not even the worst of the mini-games.
With each case having a different storyline there are also different mini-games to be played. Sometimes this involves hitting a colored button at the correct time, while other times it involves finding a set number of items in a room. Why you are finding some of these items is often times beyond the plot's reasoning but you have to do it anyway. This isn't to say that all the mini-games are dull because there are some jigsaw type puzzles that I actually had fun with but these are way too few and far between.
Get the real thing
House M.D. is not a great looking game by most gaming standards but as far as adventure/puzzle titles go, it looks OK. Everything is stylized in a cell shaded look but nearly everything is static in its presentation except for the mini-games. This gives the effect that you are watching a bad Flash based slide show. Despite not pushing the visuals in any way I personally experienced some weird graphical glitches while doing the environmental exploration puzzles to the point where the game was nearly broken in spots. Additionally the music that accompanies the imagery is equally serviceable but much like the mini-games it gets repetitive rather quickly.
All in all House M.D. is not very good, not as an adaptation of the television show or as an adventure/puzzle game. It is extremely repetitive, the medical mysteries themselves are not that interesting and the charm that the show has is lost due to their being no voice acting. Considering that an early season of the show can be found on DVD for slightly more than what Legacy Interactive is charging for the game, I recommend you go with the real thing over this weak interpretation.
A couple of the mini-games present some fun.
Repetitive gameplay and lack of charm.