Maybe it seems a little uncharitable to review an explicitly Christian game on a Sunday – one that was a gift, no less – but… well, I just need to tell you about this.
We got the game Pilgrim’s Progress: The Game(styled after the book) as a Christmas present, and finally had a chance to break it out and play tonight. First, there’s something unsettling about the square “Meet an atheist, lose a turn”. Not “listen to and be tempted by” or anything… just meet one. I understand it’s an explicitly Christian game, based on an explicitly Christian book, but… c’mon. Just to meet a guy, and you’re held back? Should you happen to draw the “atheist” card, however, it’s much worse, severely setting you back on the CandyLand style game board. I have to wonder if it was playtested – there are more than a few places where going forward two spaces sends you back one – or one particularly bad place where there’s a “move forward one space” immediately followed by a “move backwards one space”.
Despite the flaws, the board is attractively styled, with stand-up figures and events from the book. The book, by the way, is helpfully turned into an illustrated story so that those at the lower end of the game’s audience (5yr olds) can have the background to make this meaningful. And the essentially chance-based mechanism is fine when you’re dealing with wanting to make a story more interactive, especially for younger children.
This is supposed to be a moral story, about salvation, choices, and perseverance. What it ends up being in the game is a crap-shoot based on die rolls and card draws. There are more than a few points where the path you take is supposed to mark decisions made by the players – but the “decision” as to what path to take is based solely on a roll of the die.
Or as my son put it when playing the game once more by himself: “Now I’m playing two guys, I’ll have a better chance of making it into the Celestial City!”
If you stop and think about the lesson this game is teaching, it’s directly counter to the source material it’s drawn from. The mechanics of the game make redemption into a roll of the die instead of a personal decision. I can only presume that it was whipped up to make money off of the success of the Pilgrim’s Progress book and movie. Unlike the fans of both, those money-grubbers should be made to lose a turn.