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Ego Review: A must-have mixture of MySpace and Miis for your mobile.

April 16, 2008 – Punch Entertainment’s Ego, originally called Alter Ego, is a social networking game. In my initial preview of the game, I called it a ‘people sim,’ and after spending time with the final version, the label stands. It’s a game about interaction and community with a clever little avatar creation system, making Ego an effective hybrid of the Nintendo Mii channel and the MySpace/Facebook phenomenon. And as Ego delivers on every promise Punch offered when it first unveiled the game to IGN Wireless, I have no choice but to happily endorse it.

Ego is not designed to replace Tetris or Tower Bloxx, but sit alongside of them as an alternate experience to a traditional game. At the onset, you create your in-game character — your Ego — with a nice customization tool. You run through all the expected options, such as eyes and hair, and then dress the Ego up with some basic duds. As you play the game and unlock more Ego archetypes (I’ll explain those in a few lines), you unlock additional clothes and gear that let you really put a personal touch on your little Ego.

The primary thrust of Ego is to facilitate little captured moments of communication, distilling an entire social encounter into a minute-long bite — it’s like showing somebody a Polaroid of the Grand Canyon. After creating your Ego, you can go online and interact with complete strangers. The encounters are not real-time. Your Ego interactions are your own, but you are dealing with an AI version of another person’s Ego with their actions dictated by their previous decisions. When you initiate an encounter, you select a salutation and then choose an activity, such as gift-giving, flirting, using ESP, or debating.

Depending on your skills at these interactions versus your partner, you can ‘win’ the encounter. If you try out ESP on somebody with a solid brainy rating, you are sure to lose. As you interact, the choices you make affect your personal attributes, such as attitude, aggression, intellect, morality, and physique.

You can attach little text snippets to your exchanges, such as a note if you choose to flirt and offer some flowers. This adds some personalization to the encounter, which your friend will see on their handset later on. They can also respond to the encounter with on of their own. If you interact with a stranger, you can add them to a buddy list and then check in with them as you play Ego.

After a few encounters, the game gets an idea of what kind of person you are creating in the digital neighborhoods of Ego. That’s when you see a finger drop from the sky and designate your Ego are a specific archetype, such as a Drama Student, Boxer, Emo, or Soldier. Earning new archetypes gives you the new clothing and appearance options I mentioned earlier. There are dozens of archetypes in Ego, so the mix-and-match combos are in the thousands.

You also earn points during your encounters, which in turns unlocks new items within the game. For example, I put away the game for a few days and logged back in to watch videos of encounters other Egos had with mine. After a couple encounters, I crossed a points threshold that let me unlock a new gift to give out, such as a crystal ball or chocolate bar.

In addition to personalizing your Ego, you can also create a room for your little avatar. This room acts as a MySpace-lite, where you can dress up the surroundings, put down your favorite things, and then grant access to either the whole Ego community or just friends.

Ego stretches beyond mobile. Punch has created both MySpace and Facebook applications for the game as well as a website (still in beta) that acts as a hub world. You can check out avatars there and eventually start communicating outside the application. Very cool.

Closing Comments

Mobile needs stuff like Ego to thrive. We have apparently hit some sort of ceiling with constant revisions of Bejeweled-like puzzlers or side-scrolling action games. That’s no slam against what’s out there — it’s just that mobile needs a few unique games to kick-start it in 2008, and I think Ego is one of a handful of games with the potential to do so. It is an immensely attractive social sim with great customization, fun tools that are easy to use, and it is perfectly suited for just jumping in and out of without major time commitments. I heartily recommend Ego to anybody looking for a fun networking game with a touch of MySpace and Miis.

Reported by Levi Buchanan