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Computer Gaming World (CGW)
While the timeliness of the topic definitely enhances the game’s appeal, the fundamental system would be interesting even if it were set on Mars. That’s the mark of a good design and a worthy
Visually, The Political Machine is a nice colorful take on the caricatures you see in political cartoons. There's a lot of delightfully flavored text that's also informative, including multiple choice TV interview questions, occasional news updates, and a text crawl across the top of the screen. The map can get cluttered as the election draws near, particularly in the smaller states in the northeast, so it's easy to miss something important if you're not zoomed in. A few more hotkeys wouldn't hurt, but the interface makes it easy to get around and access information with a minimum of fuss.
Although The Political Machine isn't quite as fleshed out as I would have liked and dates itself by focusing heavily on the issues of 2004, it's still fun and surprisingly accessible. You can create your own candidate from scratch, or have Al Gore and even Bill Clinton take another stab at the White House, attempt to get a woman or African-American elected President, and unlock historical figures. And while the opponent AI is a little too predictable, TPM supports multiplayer, which is great once your friends get the hang of the nuances. For me, running for President isn't nearly as interesting as being the President, but this campaign simulator is fun in its own right, and Stardock is known for constantly expanding and improving its titles after release.
Overall, The Political Machine is highly informative if nothing else. But it’s also fun to play so I recommend it. If you’d like to figure out what that “politic” stuff you hear about all the time is all about, but don’t want to be bored by drawn-out explanations from people who don’t even know then check out The Political Machine and give your sweating videocard a break from stressful 3D computations.
Despite these negatives, The Political Machine has a catchy replayability for board game fans and political junkies. You can zip through a campaign in around a half hour, and there's plenty of variety provided to keep you intrigued enough to play through the Democratic and Republican campaigns so that you can unlock the game's mystery candidates. Online play (if you can find an opponent on the sparsely populated Stardock server) can keep you going even longer.
The Political Machine is a very well crafted game with great balance and a surprisingly large strategic depth. It offers a long enough gameplay to last well beyond the 2004 Presidential election, and because of the lack of violence and sex, it is accessible to people of all ages. Some may go even as far as call this a political simulator and an educational tool, despite the lack of realism. Unfortunately, broken or missing features make the game feel a little rushed and detract from the level of enjoyment you may have had otherwise. Knowing Stardock, however, it is almost certain that patches and possibly additional content are on their way.
Game Informer Magazine
This title's humorous tone and engaging gameplay are charming, even if the game itself is a bit on the repetitive and shallow side (just like real politics!).
If you like politics, you will probably find this game is engrossing, if not fulfilling. It is the gaming version of snack food: it may not be good, but it is easy and you are likely to eat a lot of it when bored.
Game Freaks 365
This is a wet dream for political junkies. Passing up on The Political Machine would be like passing on a date with Britney Spears. For the budget price of $19.99, I don't see how you can go wrong with The Political Machine, which could quite easily be the best simulator of Election Year 2004.
While The Political Machine might serve to introduce children to the political process (why it's rated Teen I have no idea), it's hard to imagine it appealing as a strategy game to anyone older than 12. It's not a matter of whether it's challenging or not--the difficulty level you select at the beginning of the game determines that--it's that, despite the juicy subject matter that Stardock could have taken and run with, there's less depth here than there is in the average puddle on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Political Machine feels a bit like a quasi-educational game designed to teach you about the electoral process and how many Electoral College votes you need to be the next resident of the oval office (270). If there's one thing I hate, it's being tricked into learning something. And while I admire The Political Machine's cynical (and accurate) take on politics, it's just not very much fun to play. By week 30, you're sick of the whole thing and you wish that people would just get up and vote already. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much how I feel about Bush vs. Kerry. It might only be $20, but The Political Machine still feels pretty thin, even for a budget game. It's more of a novelty, a third-party candidate – you'll like some of what it has to offer, but it's still pretty much just wasting your vote.
This game is multiplayer enabled, but no one ever seems to be on the matching service. This is a big clue for you. If you can make a game play over the net, and still no one plays it, then I say you have a real loser on your hands.