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Christian Video Games, part one: Noah’s Ark and Wisdom Tree

A few days ago, Dan J‘s wife @chaosagent23 tweeted thusly:

I’m a gamer and I have to ask myself why? Why does this exist? http://bit.ly/6D7XPV #games #fundietarded #nonsense 8:57 PM Jan 25th from TweetDeck

She was referring to Bible Navigator X — a downloadable X-Box Live “game” that you can purchase for 400 Microsoft Points ($5 USD). This reminded me of the expansive library of absolutely horrid Christian video games I have forced myself to try, and the expansive library of other such horrid video games that I have yet to see outside of Youtube videos and Seanbaby reviews.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, this is exactly the type of thing that’s my particular bailiwick. Thus, a multi-part blog post was born.

There’s one interesting tidbit about Christian video games, in that there are actually three games titled Noah’s Ark, two of which are for the NES, and only one of the two was licensed by Nintendo — the licensed one being the absurdist Konami offering wherein Noah could shoot stars, and had to bounce on crabs’ heads, and the level bosses were these strange plug monsters that you had to defeat to drain the level so you weren’t already drowning by the time you started the next one. You really have to see it to understand.

One of those offerings is for PC, included here so as not to break up the Noah’s Ark three-fer. It’s by PopCap Games, and is practically a secular puzzler with a thin graphical patina that only seems to serve as a nod to the Ark story. I’ve actually played it a considerable amount, as it made a nice change of pace from Alchemy or Bookworm now and then, and it’s quite fun — though the packing scheme of the dozens of pairs of tigers, lions, monkeys, parrots, mice and basset hounds on the playing field probably roughly approximates what Noah would have had to do on his teeny tiny boat to begin with so why he didn’t just shovel the whole field into his ark to be done with the task, I don’t know. It’s available online at PopCap’s site.

And that brings us to the main thrust of our post.

This is like the inverse of the Nintendo Seal of Quality.

The third Noah’s Ark title was made by a company by the name of Wisdom Tree — a company reformed phoenix-like from the ashes of the famous Color Dreams, being the first company to manage to work around NES’ lock-out chip that required that licensing fees be paid to Nintendo in order to gain access to the chip and get the “Nintendo Seal of Quality”.

And here I always thought it was just an extortion scheme. Nintendo was actually protecting us from crap like Wisdom Tree all along!

They worked around this proprietary technology not because they were too broke to pay for it, but because they had some technical geniuses on staff, and their games were too horrible and glitchy for Nintendo to even countenance the request for a license to begin with. The company eventually went under with its reputation in tatters over their shoddy work. Shortly thereafter, someone from the company likely realized that fundamentalist Christians are a built-in demographic that were not being catered to by the otherwise secular video game industry, and in a clever (and I suspect cynical) move, started churning out shitty Bible-based games to make some quick coin off the rubes that thought Italian plumbers crushing mushrooms with their feet was obviously far too heathenistic for their precious children to play.

This third Noah’s Ark was released on one convenient, unlicensed NES cart called Bible Adventures; the other two carts were programmed with the same pick-stuff-up platformer engine, so I suspect cramming them together was easy enough to do. There’s a game where you can throw baby Moses into a river, though the point is to carry him from one end of the level to the other (something like the Rescue Toad levels in New Super Mario Bros Wii, only far less fun); and another where you play David and have to fight … squirrels. I assume Goliath is somewhere on the other end of this endless series of squirrels, but I didn’t bother to continue watching, because I got distracted by this MUGEN match of Pocket Fighters Shin Akuma vs Apocalypse from Marvel Vs Capcom. It’s a much more epic conception of David and Goliath than the Bible could ever have come up with!

Wisdom Tree also made another three-in-one game kart called King of Kings: The Early Years, detailing three events that never happened in Jesus’ life — like when Jesus had to get to the Temple and had to jump over water that he couldn’t walk across or something. It’s really very odd. You control a donkey in one game and a camel in another, and they play almost identically.

There’s also Spiritual Warfare, another unlicensed NES offering that appears to be more than heavily Zelda-influenced. Video is here. It doesn’t look terrible, though it’s by the same company that shat out those other three in one games so I don’t have much faith (heh heh) that it’s anything less than a maddeningly difficult to control and outright pointless game that never even gets around to teaching you anything about the Bible outside of a verse or two in cutscenes and a vaguely Bible-related premise.

This isn’t a complete list of the Wisdom Tree games, however it hits all the NES ones at least. Tomorrow’s Part 2 will finish off the Wisdom Tree saga properly and cover the high points of the PC game offerings, and Thursday’s Part 3 will probably cover whatever I missed in the first two. Or will include a photo gallery of my real-time facial reactions to playing these games for the first time. Or something. I don’t know yet. I thin the Left Behind game(s?) should definitely get their own post, at some undefined point in the future.

So, what’s your favorite Christian-themed video game, folks? I’m sure you have one! Do mention it so I don’t miss your faves in a future post.

Comments

  1. Shannon says

    The only christian themed game i can recall playing is actually the one you mentioned by konami, it was actually quite odd as you say. As for the Nintendo seal of quality, I am still rather cynical about it, even today you can find some incredibly lousy quality titles out on the WII, Nintendo is rather quick to hand out their seal as long as you shell out the money I guess. I seem to recall having played some other christian games with friends at their homes when I was younger, but I may have blocked those memories out.

  2. says

    Oh, I don’t know about that. I agree that games like Ninjabread Man should never have seen the light of day — but at least it was not the buggy, glitchy, flickery turd that Wisdom Tree squeezed out into a cart and called a game. I honestly think that seal of quality is just a tiny little hurdle that can be vaulted by mere dint of having a game that doesn’t turn your Wii into a molten slag. Doesn’t matter that the game is no good — as long as it WORKS.

  3. sinned34 says

    Back in the day, I had Bible Adventures for the NES. I gave it away a long time ago, and I don’t miss that horrid powder-blue cartridge at all. Interestingly, I gave it to a friend that had five young daughters, and I notice that none of them grew up to like video games much. I blame Bible Adventures, but perhaps that’s what the producers of the game were hoping to accomplish: chase children away from those horribly satanic video games and get them reading Teh Werd!

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