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Alter Ego

Moby ID: 2194
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Alter Ego is a game which tries to simulate life itself. The player creates a character with different personality statistics, either by assigning them randomly or by answering a few introductory questions. They then guide this character through seven life phases, from infancy to old age.

The gameplay consists of a series of situations where a decision has to be made. This is done by choosing one of multiple answer possibilities, sometimes accompanied with a mood. Then the player gets presented with the outcome and goes on to the next situation. Every decision has long-time consequences and influences the personality, health and which situations await further down the road. Some decisions may even result in an early death or instant game over.

Every life phase is represented by a life tree where the situations are lined up; the motif of the situation card shows the general theme of the situation. After reaching a certain age, additional life options can be undergone at any time. Here the player can change his lifestyle and manage his love and professional life.

The game exists in two variations which depict a male or female life.

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Screenshots

Promos

Credits (DOS version)

17 People (8 developers, 9 thanks)

Designed and Written by
Producer
IBM version by
Macintosh and Commodore 64 versions by
Additional Programming
Macintosh graphics adapted by
Creative consultants
Documentation
Special Thanks To

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 87% (based on 9 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 82 ratings with 6 reviews)

Terribly flawed, but interesting nonetheless

The Good
The premise is pretty amazing and I was seriously willing to sit through this game entirely. A little text-based game that gives you a character that you must lead through the many stages of life sounded pretty nice to me. I had always wanted such a game and found the "The Sims" franchise to be seriously lacking, this because "The Sims" was always very repetitive and lacked the depth of true life, instead it was mostly about daily routines.

The story is pretty well-written and allows you to make some very interesting choices regarding life. The idea is that you pick a random aspect (family, health, love etc.) and answer a question regarding that subject, depending on your choice you are awarded with a result and some points for your stats. There are also some special aspects you can always choose, such as; work, children and dating, these are all pretty nice, but do often lead to weird situations. Oh, I forget to say: Dating and marrying is pretty hard to pull-off in this game, the game is full of such details.

The game was interesting enough to keep me hooked for hours after hours, most games only keep me busy for less than an hour or less since I got a job. I can easily spend four to five hours in this game without ever getting bored, this is just perfect for when I got way too much time left. The developer really deserves a trophy for this, it's good enough to keep me hooked for hours, but it's also not addictive unlike World of Warcraft and other game that try to keep you hooked for long periods of time.

The Bad
My biggest complaint is that the game is the ones that decides when you move to the next phase of life, you can leave a phase early, but there is no way you can finish all the decisions before moving on, especially later on when you can do the side-quests (for lack of a better name for them). I understand that this is to increase replay value, but I just can't handle it when I know I am missing content. A better option would have been to have a few main choices that you need to complete and a lot smaller choices that change every time a new game starts (there are too many choices for just one game). This way you don't tease the players and still maintain your replay value.

The game lacked visuals and that was kind of a problem, I know this is an old game, but there is just no way to ignore it. You have a black background and white letters, there are no images or different colors, only black and white. This was acceptable in the 80's, but it hasn't aged very well. If I had played this game for a few hours, I would always boot-up "Wii Sports" just to amaze thick little brain.

The Bottom Line
This is a pretty nice game to play, but I hate the fact that I always know there is content that I will not be able to play. The feeling that I am leaving something unfinished in my previous phase of life is very annoying and I just can't enjoy it, every time I move to a new age I stop the game and abandon it for a week or two for that very reason.

It's still a very well-written story and with some interesting choices, but the flaws are gigantic and take a lot of fun away from the game.

Browser · by Asinine (957) · 2011

Better than life?

The Good
You can tell that the game's author holds a Psychology PhD. Every situation in the game has a myriad of potential outcomes, and the factors which influence the outcome are highly subtle. For example, in your career you have the chance of meeting a potentially influential businessman for a drink - any past tendency to abuse alcohol makes a positive outcome less likely, but if your character's vocational strength, confidence and expressiveness are high enough, you might get away with it. When attempting to get attention at a service station, you need to be pushy but not too pushy - your record of calmness and expressiveness impact the likely result here.

With so many personality factors to decide before the game even starts, each game can be completely different. As the packaging suggests, you can be whoever you want to be. Decisions are easier as well, as there's nothing physiological or tangible riding on them. Why run the risk of your wife finding out about an affair if you won't feel anything during the affair?

The Bad
The game takes place in a sandbox world. As the game progresses there are no political or social changes, the whizz-bang car or computer you've bought doesn't depreciate in value, and this limits the range of careers on offer to 'normal' ones. Also, the game code assumes that your parents were together in your childhood, and that you are heterosexual (needless to say, the author of an online remake of the game gets many requests to add this feature).

Although some of the dialogue did make me chuckle, other sections are cringe-worthy and cloying.

The Bottom Line
An adventure game of sorts, Alter Ego puts you into a simulation of real life, and gives you all the key choices to make. You can choose a degree and a career path, anything from entrepreneur to scientist, save lives, take up interesting hobbies, and have the marriage of your dreams. It's an individual and unusual basis for a game, but it all hangs together due to the variety, humour and obvious validity of the outcomes.

DOS · by Martin Smith (81664) · 2005

IT is one of the greatest games I ever played

The Good
For one thing one could try to live their lives or they could try things one will never try in real life like get naughty. like in one part a game keep teasing you what you going to do? w\Well if you like to be naughty you can lift her skirt but you'll get smart-aleck comment " one day she might become your wife". I lost my copy when we had a flood when we were kids...shame.... I wish I could get a copy that might run on windows XP or vista. How about you guys making one with 3D graphics like what they did for Castle Wolfenstein and Doom.

The Bad
Well basically nothing , at that time computers were not like what we have now. Basically you attach them to TV or a monochrome or color monitors. and graphics were simple then,. Hey I'm not complaining, I THINK IT WAS ONE OF YOUR BEST. Thanks!

The Bottom Line
It is one hell of a game that if you did not have a chance to play it, it's like you lost 1 (or more) lifetime. Great going guys!

Apple II · by Rodolfo Pacheco (2) · 2006

[ View all 6 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Graphics score? Cavalary (11445) Jul 9, 2014

Trivia

1001 Video Games

The Commodore 64 and Apple II versions of Alter Ego appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Explicit content

Because of the authenticity of the life experiences explored in the program, Alter Ego contains explicit material which may not be suitable for players under the age of 16. They have the option of skipping these experiences, however.

Female and male versions

The game came out in a distinct male and female version, where all the experiences are geared toward male or female players respectively.

Sales

The female version, due to the very small percentage of female gamers at the time, did not sell well and is fairly rare.

Awards

  • Commodore Format
    • January 1991 (Issue 4) - listed in the A to Z of Classic Games article (Great)* Happy Computer
    • 1986 - Best Game Idea of the Year
    • Issue 04/1987 - #11 Best Game in 1986 (Readers' Vote)* Zzap!
    • January 1990 (Issue 57) – 'The Best Games of the 80's Decade' (Phil King)

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  • MobyGames ID: 2194
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by the--dud.

Commodore 64 added by Quapil. iPad added by Sciere. Browser, iPhone, Android added by Pseudo_Intellectual. Apple II added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Indra was here, Sciere, General Error, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, ZeTomes.

Game added August 22, 2000. Last modified January 16, 2024.