Developer: Hands-On Mobile
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

This game is based on the hit FOX medical drama “House,” and it’s probably not what you’re expecting.  On each episode of House, the colorful cast of doctors uses differential diagnosis to figure out what rare medical condition the patient of the week is suffering from.  House M.D. takes that particular aspect of the show and boils it down to a pretty strange logic puzzle format.  It’s a pretty interesting use of the license that almost works, but feels rough around the edges, and ends up lacking much of the personality of the show that it’s based on.

When you start a game of House MD, you are presented with one of 10 random cases.  There is a still picture of the medical team, and some banter ensues that is always the same for each individual case except for the sex and age of the patient.  Next is the game board itself, which is a grid of boxes filled with arbitrary looking circles and squares of different color and design.  These symbols are supposed to represent all of the patient’s symptoms, but look more like marbles than anything else.  Each row contains a unique set of symbols, and each box in that row initially contains every symbol in that set.  It’s your job to narrow down which individual symbol belongs in each box.  If there are 4 boxes/columns in a row, there will be 4 different symbols, and you need to determine which box they belong to.

IMG_0876To help you figure out where the symptoms belong in the grid, you can assign 3 available doctors to perform tests and gather clues in the process.  You have Foreman, Thirteen, and Taub available to you from the show, and the activities they can perform are Question, Search Home, Experimental, Med Procedure, and Lab Test.  Each activity takes a certain amount of time to complete, which is shown by a timer.  The longer the test takes to complete, the better the clue.  Question will tell you 2 symptoms that are not next to each other, Search Home points out a box where a specific symptom is not located, Experimental tells you if 2 symptoms are in the same row or column, Med Procedure is the same as Experimental but it also tells you the distance, and Lab Test just flat-out tells you where one of the symptoms goes.  If this sounds confusing, it initially is, especially since the game doesn’t describe much of this in the included instructions.

Once you’ve figured out where all the symptoms belong, you get a letter grade and the game records your time.  There are four difficulty levels included, which basically increase the size of the grid and the number of symptoms accordingly, as well as change the static background picture of your team.  None of these difficulties are particularly hard, although there is an additional one that you can purchase for an extra $0.99.  It would have been nice to just have had this included in the core game to help extend the experience, although it is basically more of the same.  House M.D. keeps track of your 4 best times for all of the difficulty levels, as well as global best times via OpenFeint.  There are also 40 achievements that can be obtained while playing the game.

IMG_0868House M.D. is an interesting game, but it is ultimately lacking the hook needed to draw you back in.  Once you’ve seen the handful of still photos and read through the dialog, the core gameplay doesn’t really stand up on its own.  The actual logic puzzles feel a bit watered down when compared to similar games in the genre, with really no threat of either getting stuck or your patient dying.  The occasional warning that Jane/John Doe is crashing or loosing blood is really meaningless, as you can let the game sit for hours with no consequence.  There’s ultimately enough of a disconnect between the game and its theme to make it all seem like pretty shallow window-dressing on an okay game.  House M.D. is amusing at first, particularly because of its odd nature, but it pretty quickly loses its charm.  If the TV show was more like the game, it might have been canceled after the first season.

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