“Mr. Gorbachev… let my people go.”
-Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
It’s almost Christmas. That means, for many gamers out there, the possibility of finding some great games under the tree come that hallowed morning (or evening, whatever your family tradition is). I’m personally prodding my wife daily for Final Fantasy XV or The Last Guardian.
But Christmas can also bring many disappointing memories back to mind. Remember the time you got argyle socks instead of Super Mario World? Or how about the time somebody got you tightie whities instead of Arkham Asylum? Or when you got Spiritual Warfare instead of The Legend of Zelda, Bible Adventures instead of Super Mario Bros. 2, Super 3D Noah’s Ark instead of Wolfenstein 3D, or Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land instead of Boulder Dash…? All because your loving parents felt like Christian-themed games were better for you than heathen ones.‘Course as it turns out, Wisdom Tree’s copycat games aren’t much more than vaguely “themed” around Christian concepts. Take the Color Dreams developed, Wisdom Tree published action-puzzle title Exodus. It’s Boulder Dash but with Moses in it. And that’s about it.The biblical accuracy stops there because in Exodus, old Moses shoots blazing W’s (for the Word of God, obviously) and blows up Egyptians (rather than just burying them in the sand) as he progresses through a long series of timed levels crashing through obstacles, picking up question mark icons and items, and collecting manna to unlock the secret door. Uh huh…
I’m not sure what’s worse: plagiarism or blasphemy, or a decadent combination of both. Okay, that’s a little too heavy. It’s no secret that the Wisdom Tree games are copycats but I just find it funny how much “creative license” they took with the original source material. No wonder all of their games were not officially licensed by Nintendo.
Now, I don’t only have fire and brimstone for Exodus. It of course doesn’t aim to accurately represent the inspirational tale of an end of slavery and deliverance. It’s actually a pretty fun game insofar as Wisdom Tree titles go.
The premise of Moses’ abilities may sound pretty boring at first. Shooting W’s? I mean, where’s the plagues and parting the Red Sea? How freakishly awesome would that be if they’d really gone for ultra-cool made Moses this action-hero that could summon frogs and locusts?
But instead, Moses can collect power ups which increase the range and rate of fire for his W’s. Getting it maxed out is pretty great and makes you feel invincible, but you’ll lose your upgrades if you die. Moses can also later drop bombs(?) similar to Bomberman. Because “accuracy”. According to the in-game info, the bomb items are actually staffs. There are also , and hey at least they tried to work in some of the material in the Bible with the names of items and objects. At least they tried… *cries a little*After completing each level, you’re treated to some Bible trivia questions based on how many question mark icons you were able to collect in the previous stage. Answering these correctly earns you an extra Moses!Now it isn’t like you’ll need a seminary Master of Divinity degree to answer these. A lot of them are common knowledge (or used to be) and it’s not like they’re questions regarding the single widest spread Book of books in human history or anything… I don’t care if you’ve never read the Bible before. If your answer is “Aztecs”…
Out of all of the Wisdom Tree games that I’ve played, I think Exodus is the most fun. It reminded me a lot of Dig Dug, which is one of my favorite arcade classics. I have never played Boulder Dash or Crystal Mines which Exodus is supposed lifted almost entirely from. If you’re going to play it, be ready for an epic challenge as it’s got a lot of levels and gets surprisingly hard. This may seem like a Sunday school game but it would surely take an adult mind to complete some of the latter puzzles lurking on the way to the Promised Land.
The 8-Bit Review
An example of the sorry state of modern Christian art in the world today (generally speaking), Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land looked terrible in 1990 and it still looks terrible in 2016. I presume the same can be said next year, as well. The themes that helped inspired the art of the Renaissance… and now we have 8-bit Exodus. Let’s not forget that 1990 was the year the Super Nintendo was first released, showering the world with bright graphics alongside its competitor from Sega. Actually, Exodus was remade for the Mega Drive, Game Boy, and PC to varying effect, but this review is about the NES version that I played.
Graphical highlights do include static images between stages. They depict scenes from the Exodus epic such as the plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses’ life in Midian, and so on. They’re retro relics and cool and all, and I’m good as long as there isn’t one depicting Jewish circumcision.
You may not be able to answer all of the Bible trivia but you will come away from Exodus knowing one thing about biblical history without doubt: that Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham, and I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord, right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg. You’re going to be
tortured by exposed to that Sunday school “classic” for almost the entire game. And it’s horribly catchy in its own 8-bit chimey way. I got it stuck in my head just writing this review. Funny thing is the game isn’t even about Abraham. He died over 400 years before Moses!
Lots of quirky surprises await, like your W’s bouncing off of Pharaoh’s Sorcerers. Jerks. With a hundred levels, there’s plenty of gameplay for your dollar and while the game seems to start slow and easy, it becomes complicated pretty quickly.
Adapting the Greatest Story Ever Told to video game form may be impossible but you do get the sense that Wisdom Tree tried. They included as much as they could from the original biblical narrative, and then made up everything else.For a story that’s been around for 4,000-something years, maybe they could’ve implemented it a little more dramatically than with a simple on-screen paragraph. And if they’re taking creative license anyway, then why not give us a galactic final fight with the Pharaoh riding a stone-metal gear?
As simple as the controls and mechanics are in this top-down action-puzzle title, there’s a level of inaccessibility in that the game will suddenly throw a new enemy, item or obstacle in your path on the next stage and you’ll have almost no idea what to do with it until you touch it and either die or get an inexplicable power up. Yes, in the long run it’s easy but there’s some trial and error involved. How was I supposed to know the staffs of Moses exploded? I thought it was supposed to turn into a snake!
It’s got that retro difficulty. This game is hard and I’m sure I might probably be able to possibly beat it if I had enough virtue of patience. Some of the stages are crowded with so many bizarre enemies and then there are explosive golden calves and falling objects, all of which will murder old Moses resolutely. It may seem like the Bible trivia is there as an afterthought but you’ll actually need as many extra lives as you can get. As it is, it’d be a Christmas miracle if you could finish all 100 levels. Good thing there’s a password system.
A blatant copy of other superior games and yet it’s not the most inferior of the Wisdom Tree games… I guess we can let it slide with a somewhat-horrible-not-so-bad score for Uniqueness. Besides, how often do you see Christian-themed video games anymore, anyway? I’d play an open-world saga that encompasses the whole Bible, sure. Get on it, Capcom.
My Personal Grade: 4/10
Ultimately and in all seriousness, these game’s don’t exactly help any perspective of theistic Christianity as a valid, intellectual worldview alternative to naturalism and atheism. As someone who graduated from a Christian college, I tell myself it’s just a game while at the same time being unable to bury the concern that this is how a majority of the world perceives Christian belief: as little more than an obsolete fairy tale. I’m more than willing to engage in a conversation on that subject, and in some strange way, maybe Exodus is a launching pad for that kind of discussion. If not, hey, it’s still one of those Wisdom Tree games that’s fun to make fun of when you have fun playing it!
Aggregated Score: 4.5