Title: 7 Grand Steps
System(s): Windows and Mac
Release Date: June 7, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Mousechief (Mousechief)
ESRB Rating: N/A, I’d say it’s fine for players ages 10 and up.
Mousechief is known for unconventional games. It’s last title, Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, was an adventure game set on a game board that was akin to the Game of Life. Now, it’s come up with 7 Grand Steps, a family simulation that allows players to guide one line through hundreds of years, all on a board that looks like a slot machine. As weird as it sounds, it works perfectly.
Keeping a family afloat and ahead of the crocs.
The key in 7 Grand Steps is keeping a family line going through the bronze age, copper age and so on. Players start with one couple on the lowest rung of the wheel of life. They’re peasants, not even craftsmen, and have a pretty short life. The crocodiles, representing death, are always looming at the bottom of the screen.
They aren’t doomed to live this life forever, fortunately. 7 Grand Steps is about advancement, if players want it to be. They could attempt to keep a family line going through the ages on one rung, but they can also try to make their lives better, by pursuing a path of heroics, intelligence or social advancement. You could have a family of heroes, a family of creators or a family of rulers. There’s no right way to win 7 Grand Steps. As long as your family is still alive, you’re doing something right.
Staying ahead on the wheel of life.
7 Grand Steps takes place on a slot-machine style game board. Players have tokens, on the left, which correspond to places on the wheel of life. The goal is to keep moving avatars forward on the wheel, hopefully landing on places with beads to build up the family story. Collecting enough beads may allow characters to get fame, fortune and the chance to even move to a higher level on the wheel. If beads are running out, dropping the bar from the upper left hand side of the screen in a character’s slot will cause him or her to go back to a space with another character to make tokens, or perhaps even add another potential heir to the family. Placing tokens in a child’s slot will make him or her wiser and a better avatar candidate for the next generation. It’s all about keeping a good balance so the family line survives.
This means 7 Grand Steps involves quite a bit of strategic thinking. You have to know when to make more tokens, which tokens to spend and decide which children should have tokens spent on them. This is especially challenging as favoring one child over others will cause problems for him or her with siblings in the next generation. It will take a few generations to really learn the right way to play, but once I did, I was hooked. I’m sure others would be as well.
This means sometimes facing certain events. Perhaps a mini-event or a challenge of an age, where a scripted event will pop up. As a result, tokens could be lost or won. I would have liked a bit more personal interaction with my family line in 7 Grand Steps. There are situations where a character may come up to an event and decide what to do. While the challenge of the age, and a few other occasions, have multiple options that allow players to decide what should be done, there are a substantial number with no player influence. I would have liked to have seen more as well, because otherwise it’s just about moving forward on the board endlessly.
A procedurally generated family tree would have been nice as well. You can see past generations on the side of the wheel in 7 Grand Steps, but I would have liked the option to see a full family tree. Mainly, because it would have been interesting to look back on one and see if there was some unconscious trend to the choices I was making within the game.
Overall though, 7 Grand Steps is a very effective simulation. Especially if you let your imagination get involved and you start creating little stories about your family. It’s almost as though the game encourages this, with the aforementioned mini-events and the naming system that may dub your latest avatar something like, “Kamilah the Brave” or “Kamilah the Humdrum.” I found myself connecting to my little statues and wishing the best for them, even though they were really no more than figures on a board. I felt bad when a loveless marriage came up, and rooted for characters who stumbled into success.
7 Grand Steps succeeds because of its unconventionality.
I’m a big fan of 7 Grand Steps. It’s an unorthodox take on a civilization and family simulation that ends up being incredible effective, perhaps because of its unconventional design. I would have liked a better means of keeping track of the family tree, and perhaps a little more choice when it came to even situations, but overall, it’s a surprisingly effective method of challenging players to maintain a family line and keeping track of said family’s past. It’s especially interesting how the game gets more difficult, depending on what part of the wheel, and thus social class, characters are on and I could see people constantly replaying it to see if they could meet certain personal challenges, like trying to create a line of royalty or a line of heroes. The impersonal method of play and disposability of characters may keep some people from getting attached, but if you’re like me, you may find yourself imagining your own stories and letting 7 Grand Steps steal your time.
Site [7 Grand Steps]