56 Sage Street
It's been a rough day. You finally made it to London with visions of super-wealth in your head. This was you big chance to show those back home that you could make it in the big city. Then your backpack was stolen. All you've got now is four pounds in your wallet and a cell phone. But, as you stand flummoxed in the rain, someone in a car driving by take pity on you and offers to give you a lift to the police station. That said person turns out to be local millionaire Mr. C, whose ailing health has conveniently left him in search for a young successor to run his empire, can only be called coincidence. Still, now opportunity knocks, and if you make some smart choices, you just might make it to the penthouse at... 56 Sage Street. A role-playing/simulation advergame from Barclays, BBH London and B-Reel that's out to provide a bit of financial literacy education, 56 Sage Street has quality you can take to the bank.
Played entirely with the mouse, save for a few of the minigames, the goal of 56 State Street is to show enough financial savvy to prove yourself to be a worthy inheritor to Mr. C's fortune. Making money relies on many things, with your main stats of reputation, energy and appearance represented at the bottom left of the screen, and the time of day at the upper left. Around the map are icons referring to the various business of the city. Doing jobs makes cash, naturally, but it requires spending time and energy. Some jobs you can't even get without a good enough appearance or reputation. Food and rest restores energy, shops and stylists can help with your appearance, doing jobs and making connections improves your reputation, and banks make it easier to keep track of your financial obligations At the bottom of the screen is your cellphone, used to keep track of finance and receive assignments from Mr. C. Progressing enough unlocks various mini-games to play and new parts of the city to explore. Do well enough and you'll rule London... or at least a couple streets.
56 Sage Street is a very impressive game, even if, as edutainment, it's a little simplistic. The target for the educational portion is obviously teens who are beginners to personal finance. The challenge is thus muted a bit for those who've been balancing their checkbooks for years. That said, even if the advice the game gives is basic, it is well worth listening to: live within your means, don't overdraw your bank account, get a haircut and do your laundry before a job interview, and don't give that friendly African prince your PIN code. Of course, a game based around the theme of equating success to money, a swanky apartment and the coolest fashion leaves itself open to criticism. However, that may be asking too much philosophy from a work in which you can just show up to work a shift at the local firework factory whenever you please.
Where 56 Sage Street really shines is in its aesthetics. B Reel has put its high-production values to work in designing a truly awesome setting. Its a darker brooding cousin of Sim City with enough graffiti and garish neon to feel living and lived it. It's impressively stocked with businesses of all kinds and prices. Certainly some are interchangeable: it probably doesn't matter whether you choose to restock your energy with fish and chips at one place or tikka masala at another, but merely having those kinds of options feels very cool. This attention to detail is maintained in all aspects of the work and is one reason the game is so addictive. While 56 Sage Street does fall victim to the same problem many of its life sim brethren have (the accurate repetitiveness of the work, eat, sleep cycle), the world is wonderful to spend time in and you'll be hard pressed to stop until you make it to the top.
Note: While it is perfectly playable from start to finish without it, 56 Sage Street uses Facebook Connect to save your progress, and to optionally request gameplay bonuses from friends.