Game Over Online ~ CEZebra

GameOver Game Reviews - CEZebra (c) Pavel Radzivilovsky, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher CEZebra (c) Pavel Radzivilovsky
System Requirements Pocket PC
Overall Rating 76%
Date Published Friday, November 30th, 2001 at 05:32 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

One of the shortcuts that developers have took while transferring existing boardgame or puzzle properties to the handheld platform is to substitute hotseat play for the lack of AI. For them, it is a great marketing pitch since hotseat play can easily be coined as multiplayer; probably one of the most prevalent buzzwords in recent memory. It only becomes evident soon that hotseat play is actually a cover up for the lack of single player AI. In many of these games, it is easier setting up the rules and even putting the entire software into a complete package than doing the AI. Believable and challenging AI is a tough job and often software developers throw their best minds at this one task. Therefore, it really is not surprising that handheld games, which have much smaller development teams, often do not focus on bringing compelling AI to the table or, like some unscrupulous characters, leave it out altogether.

CEZebra is a Pocket PC translation of the game Othello. I use the word translation because a version of the game exists for multiple platforms including the desktop PC. However, they share the basic AI engine, which the developer has aptly called Zebra. Though there have been many leisure and recreational games for PDAs, an increasing amount of titles are emerging as a cross between training and leisure titles. Thus, Zebra can act as a coach to you as well as a competent opponent. The final result is, you are able to emerge being a better Othello player.

Although, there is much planned by the developer for CEZebra, this version actually executes quite well. You can have Zebra play either side or have it observe you playing an Othello game. There is also a plethora of AI difficulty settings including ones where the AI will attempt to solve the entire board when making a move. I'm sure everyone remembers this is how Deep Blue was able to beat Kasparov in the end (although I really should mention that Kasparov won at least a single match against such incredible odds). With that said, CEZebra's presentation is not so Spartan that you have to be a hard-core Othello fan to like it. This is the case with some chess programs, for example, that only show the co-ordinates on the board rather than the board itself.

CEZebra packs a lot of effort to help you train but there are a few faults with the title. There is a general lack of audio within the title. Perhaps some audio cues, indicators and nuances from the Zebra AI would have spruced things up. Background music would have added a lot as well. As such, I usually run Windows Media Player in the background along with CEZebra. However, the intensive AI calculations made by Zebra, especially on high settings can often put a stop the music. In fact, I've run into more than a few fatal errors generated by the game itself.

Still, as far as price goes, there is nothing that can beat the free price CEZebra comes in. You get a competent AI and a no-frills approach to Othello, which to this date remains an interesting and engaging mental exercise. Without a doubt, the developers have a solid foundation to build upon and one can only hope that other developers will put this much care into their own AI components.

[07/10] Addictiveness
[15/20] Gameplay
[12/15] Graphics
[07/10] Interface/controls
[09/10] Program Size
[ N/A ] Sound
[04/05] Discreetness
[11/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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