The Wheel of Life 

And now for something completely different as the saying goes. I can promise you that this next title is certainly not the usual fare.

A game is a game is a puzzle.  This rather confusing thought impinged itself on my consciousness when I first took a look at the game of 7 Grand Steps.  Just what was going on and what was the point of this game that was confusing me to such a degree that I wondered whether I had stepped inside an Alice in Wonderland type environment.  I must admit that at this point in time I had not bothered to RTFM.  I will claim in mitigation that my reason for not “reading the flipping (polite version) manual” was because the downloaded version of the game does not possess such frippery – instead you do get a tutorial which I initially ignored but later came to value.

Let me start of by stating that the steps involved in this game are not your ordinary type, nor ones that involve your ordinary fairy tale type of giant, but ones that cover generations and even centuries as you attempt to guide your family through various stages of development and advancement.  The game, while having the overall appearance of a board game with ever hungry slots demanding the inserting of ingots and tokens, could not really exist in a traditional board game format but it does sit quite happily on a computer platform.  The 7 Grand Steps is a turn-based game with you being the only player.

Thinking about it, and this is the type of game that does require you to put the grey matter to work, the 7 Grand Steps could possibly trace its ancestry back to the John Horton Conway’s Game of Life simulation as your on-screen named family members react to a variety of stimuli by progressing or dying (actually providing crocodiles with their food intake).  At the start of 7 Grand Steps, you have control of a single male character.  He is quickly joined by a wife with the result that procreation can begin and so it happens as a child appears. 

These characters occupy a world based on a wheel.  This wheel is decorated with various symbols that are relevant to how you guide your characters through their lives, possible advancement and future development.  You control the actions of your characters by the simple method of providing them with the previously mentioned ingots and tokens.  Each character is represented by its own personal icon.  Sitting near the top of the screen, these icons each have a slot which you need to feed with ingots and tokens depending upon the type activity you wish to take place.  In some cases the required action of the parent characters will be to produce more of the tokens – ingots are automatically replenished.

A turn lasts as long as it takes you to provide each of your characters with an ingot or token.  Once this task has been completed then you have a press a pulsating button.  At which point various actions are carried out and the wheel will turn, moving towards the crocodiles waiting for their feed.  Hopefully your decision making will mean that your characters are safely situated away from the feeding zone.

Keeping your characters safe is only a minor part of your concerns.  You need to train any younger member of the family so that their can successfully endure the Rites of Passage that will surely come their way.  You will also be involved in some match-making to help ensure that there is a next generation.  From time to time you get to select from a list of challenges that could lead your family towards invention, heroic deeds or social advancement.  You will also be given the opportunity to provide a name for your family and a title for the leader of the next generation.

7 Grand Steps is not a game that you will complete in a session.  It has so many depths and sub-plots as you attempt to lead your family upwards and onwards via the strategy decisions you make.  After playing the game for several sessions, I can not escape the suspicion that it is the game that is in charge and not me making the necessary moves to complete the 7 Grand Steps.  While this game may not be everybody’s cup of tea, it should appeal to those who enjoy a good dose of strategy.

The game is available for downloading ($15) or from Steam (£11.99).  System specification call for a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 200MB of Hard Disk space running either on the Windows XP and later platform or Mac OX X 10.5.8 and later.

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