Game Reviews

PediaPedia

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PediaPedia
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Confession time: I love Wikipedia and would happily waste my days looking up obscure historical events.

In this context, PediaPedia, which uses the links of Wikipedia pages to create a sixs degree of separation-style game, could have been made for my benefit. As is often the case, however, the devil is in the details.

Get connected

The fundamental issue is you need a network connection to play the game so it can access Wikipedia. Fine for iPhone users, but it's a limitation if you're on an iPod touch. Wi-fi is required in such a case.

The other main issue is the way the game deals with the online data. Obviously, Wikipedia is a huge and constantly changing source of raw information, which requires some sort of structure imposed on it.

For this reason, part of the game's playing field has been broken down into specific categories: Animals, Cars, Famous People, Greek Mythology, Place, and Technology. The randomness of each game, in which you have to get from a provided starting point to a destination, depends on which categories are available.

Information superhighway

You set this explicitly using the three levels of difficulty. In the case of the newbie level, both the starting and destination point are chosen from the same category to make things easy. In the case of the intermediate level, they're chosen from different categories.

For pros, anything goes, with the starting and destination point randomly chosen. In all cases your task is to make the connection in as few links as possible.

You start each game with a subject - say Glasgow Barrowland market - and a list of all the links in its Wikipedia entry. You can also view a brief explanation of your destination - say Mega-CD - which gives you clues about which might be the best links to follow. Just keep tapping on the links until you get to the destination.

Somewhat annoyingly, it's not always clear what the starting subject is (Herb Score anyone?). You can make an educated guess via its links, but the more you play PediaPedia, the more you find yourself dealing less with the specifics of each subject, and, as with chess, relying on standard moves.

Perhaps the best example is country names, as these are well connected across multiple categories.

Of course, using such nodes was always going to be vital for this kind of game. That's how the six degrees of separation - itself originating from Stanley Milgram's small world experiment - became six degrees of Kevin Bacon, Bacon being the classic go-to Hollywood node.

Break in transmission

Unlike the close-knit world of film stars, the more random your PediaPedia games become in terms of subject, the less interesting they are to play as you can end up just hitting links until you make the connection or give up.

Conversely, playing on the newbie difficulty level is too easy, as you can frequently make a match in two links.

Despite the use of OpenFeint for challenges and achievements (there's Facebook and Twitter notifications too), there's a surprising lack of in-game rewards. There’s little celebration when you make a match between subjects, let alone more complex issues such as attempting to grade the elegance of your solution.

To that extent, PediaPedia plays more like the process of working your way though the index of an encyclopedia - sometimes educational, but often dry - than enjoying and beating an information-based game.

Still, it's a nice idea and one that could be crafted into something more pleasurable in the hands of larger, more experienced development team. After all, PediaPedia was created by one-man band, US student Zach Griswold.

PediaPedia

PediaPedia doesn't fulfil its promise of creating a links-based game using Wikipedia, but it's a valiant attempt
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