Zap Dramatics: Ambition series
A desperate man grips the detonator of the explosives belted around his waist, his thumb hovering ever so slightly above that little, harmless-looking red button. On the other side of the room a cop stands, gun drawn, his finger trembling over the trigger. And you, dear reader? You are the invisible observer, responsible for helping the cop find some way out of this seemingly impossible situation. Can you find a way to walk the fine line between the would-be bomber's hope and despair and emerge with your life?
So begins The Desperate Dad, the first chapter of ZAP Dramatics' online interactive mystery series, Ambition. This is not your ordinary Jay is Games offering; as their website says, ZAP Dramatics produces "serious games and dramatic simulations to entertain, educate and influence opinions." Ambition is ZAP's most, well, ambitious effort to date, with a complex storyline spanning 10 episode and featuring a colorful cast of suspects. Other simulations offer more mundane scenarios, such as convincing your boss to give you a raise or obtaining a refund from a grumpy customer service clerk.
Each simulation proceeds in essentially the same way: a scenario is set up, the conflict develops, and then periodically the player chooses a response/action from a menu of choices. Each choice will then lead to a new set of options, and so on. Only a few correct "paths" exist to attain the desired conclusion. Expect to meet many dead ends before navigating your way through the crisis, and to spend a fair amount of time replaying the successful choices before finding your way back to the fork in the road.
Analysis: I was delighted when Jay offered me the chance to write about ZAP Dramatics in my inaugural review, as I've long been a fan of their intricately plotted, psychologically compelling simulations. While most games rely upon reflexes or intellect, ZAP's offerings forces the player to use his or her empathy; only by understanding the antagonist's motivations will you be able to develop a rapport with him or her and ultimately defuse the conflict. Some nice voice acting and simple but effective graphics add to the level of immersion experienced by the simulations, and the variety of situations, from mundane to potentially fatal, emphasize that the same psychological tools used to extract a confession from a murder suspect can also help you get a raise.
A few flaws do exist in the simulations, most notably the tedium that can result due to the constant replay. Overall, however, ZAP provides entertaining, compelling and educational simulations that you may just find yourself addicted to.
Be sure to visit the ZAP Dramatic "Dramas" page for access to other episodes. You can also find more free episodes on Newgrounds.
Note: While a number of the simulations are free, full access requires paying a membership fee.