June 17, 2004
Tivola ( Viva Media)
Let's get one thing straight - Webmaster is not an adventure game. I am not quite certain what kind of game this actually is. Perhaps it's best if I simply explain whatWebmaster is about and how it works.
The world of Webmaster is a place called the Dream Wide Web, or DWW. It bears many striking similarities to the World Wide Web (or WWW) that we all know and love. Unfortunately the DWW was taken over by an evil hacker (why are hackers in works of fiction always evil?). The inhabitants of DWW have been driven underground and now call themselves "Subterraneans". The hacker enlisted the help of wisp-like creatures called Getties for his hostile takeover of the DWW.
Fortunately there is one good Getty left and ready to help you, the webmaster, in your quest to defeat the hacker and return the DWW to its rightful owners. When you start playing, you have only several sites in the DWW available to you. Getting around is accomplished through a browser-like interface - you can move back and forth between the sites, save bookmarks etc., much like using a real WWW browser.
To get to the hacker, you need to break through a series of four firewalls which obstruct your movement. Each firewall can be unlocked by the correct combination of three cards. Some of the cards are just lying around, some you have to win from the Getties in several kinds of mini-games (shuffle puck, throwing cans, dice and so on). To find the right card combination, you need help from the Subterraneans. If you place a card on a message board or "newsgroup", you will receive hints that will let you deduce which trios of cards belong together.
There are two difficulties: deciphering the hints and getting the required cards. The former is easy (except perhaps for the youngest players - the game is billed as suitable for anyone aged 10 and older), the latter is not. There is an element of randomness in the game and more often than not, getting that one last card requires a lot of patience, perhaps too much patience.
Not all cards are useful for unlocking firewalls. Some can be used for curing viruses - yes, the evil hacker has spread three different viruses around the DWW. If you catch one - that is, are bitten by an insect-like bug - you only have limited time to use the correct combination of three cards to get rid of the infestation. There are three difficulty levels in Webmaster: on the easiest level you'll never catch a virus, on the hardest it will likely happen several times throughout the game.
Winning Webmaster requires both deductive reasoning and nimble fingers. Most of the mini-games require fast reflexes and good command of the mouse. Webmaster is hardly an action game, but if you aren't good with the mouse, make sure to avoid this game.
Technologically, Webmaster is not all that impressive. The game runs in 640x480 resolution with only 256 colors, which makes the images look visibly dithered. Most of the scenes are static with minimum of animation. Sound is nothing to write home about either - it's good technically, but there's not much of it. The only talking "character" is the helpful Getty who gives you descriptions of the DWW locations when you ask him. There is also "Radio URL" which will play for a few minutes if you feed it a special card.
Here I would normally be talking about puzzles, but in Webmaster there are hardly any. The game's difficulty is very easy for the logic based tasks. The action bits should not be a major obstacle for anyone skilled in using a mouse. Overall,Webmaster is on the easy side.
Despite all its drawbacks, I actually enjoyed playing Webmaster. I must admit that I didn't expect this, but the game was more addictive than I imagined and I could hardly stop playing until I broke through all the firewalls. The replayability ofWebmaster is limited because the cards never change - if you figured out which cards go together once, you can reuse the same information later. Naturally getting the cards is always a challenge, although it reduces Webmaster to an action game. Final word: enjoyable but not memorable.
Final Grade: C