I think when we hear about a bible-themed game, such as one that has “Bible” in the title, we have certain expectations. Foremost on that list – it should probably have something to do with the Bible. Wisdom Tree’s final unlicensed Christian game for the NES doesn’t quite fall into the category of some of its earlier titles, and isn’t really interested in recreating Old Testament tales in digital form. Instead, it appears to be a children’s game with a tiny bit of Biblical trivia tacked on.
Why the change in plans? Was Wisdom Tree trying to focus more on being a mainstream game developer? Did they not get enough sales out of their previous titles with heavy Christian elements ingrained in the game? This is all conjecture, but I doubt it was anything as fun or scandalous as “Christian game developer drops Christianity for more money.” Instead it appears that someone in the company had the idea to make an interactive board game, like Monopoly or Anticipation had done. Perhaps they intended to do something more… um… “Biblical” with this concept, but the ultimate solution appears to have been “rip off Candy Land and call it a day.”
That’s also where you get the title, because Bible + Food = Bible Buffet. It’s not the “smorgasbord of Bible” you would expect. It’s an inoffensive little board game for kids, with occasional scripture quizzes coming at you if you land on specific board spaces. But any lack of knowledge and verses won’t matter, since success only gives you a few extra stars/points at the end. The real question is if you’ll bother to get that far.
Since this is meant to be a board game, it doesn’t do you a great deal of good to play this without at least two players. You can have a total of four, and will probably need every one, since this is meant to be a competition. You cannot have the computer take over for any missing players, so playing alone will be awfully pointless.
The lack of computer players is probably due to the interactive points of the game. When you land on a regular space, you’re required to play through a brief overhead level resembling the food realm you’re currently passing through. The levels are a series of mazes, with food icons that can be picked up for points. You have three life hearts, and take damage from charging food creatures or forks and knives. If you lose all your hearts, you lose your turn and must play that space over again. The points you can acquire here will help you win at the end, since like Death Race 2000, it’s about crossing the finish first AND racking up the most points along the way. But you have to balance the risk with the possibility of taking large amounts of damage and being forced to play the space over again.
Aside from timing out the predictable patterns of most enemies, you can also drop what appears to be an exploding oil drum to clear your path, Bomberman-style. If you still thought the game might have something to do with the Bible, then wait till you wire up an IED and blast Mr. Potato Head into mashed potatoes.
Controls are adequate in these sections, though it can be tough to move quickly out of an attacker’s path. Graphics aren’t so hot. I couldn’t easily figure out what each item was supposed to be. They’re all made of food, so there’s never a clear difference between what food is supposed to give you points, what food is supposed to come alive and damage you, and what food makes up the walls of the maze. It’s all fucking food. It mostly broke out into figuring that anything moving was a bad guy and anything stationary was sometimes a pickup.
If you’re having trouble collecting points, you can try to get ahead of the other players by knowing the correct answers in the quiz sections. I like the idea here, that you can win through your skills as a gamer, or fall back on Sunday School knowledge, and neither is absolutely required to beat the game. Unfortunately, the execution got fumbled. The game sections aren’t very exciting, and the quiz sections rely on a printed question booklet that came with the cartridge. If you don’t have the book, you’re relegated to circling random answers and hoping for the best.
Being a Christian video game or teaching tool is not a bad thing. I’m going to go after the game for another reason. It was Wisdom Tree’s modus operandi to steal from and “Christianize” popular games blatantly and without remorse (especially from their own parent company’s catalog!), and this is another example of that. They could have really created something original here with this Bible board game idea, and perhaps used actual Biblical stories to play as little minigames on the spaces. So you read a quote about David fighting Goliath, go to an actual minigame of that battle, and get rewarded if you succeed. Maybe even have one of the other players control Goliath and try to stop you, you know, something to make this a real party game. I’m a filthy heathen and just cared to come up with a better game than they did.
The Bible part is so removed that this could almost be a game for any kid, except that it’s so awful. So then the opposite; you’re a parent wanting to buy your kid some “edutainment” title to teach them morals, and instead get a game where scripture quizzes come only if you land on the specific space and Little Johnny can just skip them anyway. In the end, it’s typical Wisdom Tree – a lazy game with the sole intent to get shelf space on Christian book stores.
The interactive Bible board game idea alone isn’t a bad one.
Both a bad game, and a bad Christian game.