Don’t Drink and Drive! is a new educational game for the iPhone, intended to discourage drinking and driving. Straightforward and well-intentioned as this sounds, it is not what you’re expecting. Made in collaboration with the Romanian police, Don’t Drink and Drive! is very strange indeed. At worst, it’s buggy and designed in a counterintuitive, possibly counterproductive way. At best, it’s diverting and unintentionally funny.
The game consists of four levels of increasing intoxication, and the goal is to drive around for as long as you can without getting in a wreck. I have to use the term “game” loosely; a game is a test of skill, so that you can progress to the next level only after you have achieved something or completed some challenging task. In Don’t Drink and Drive! the action only moves forward after the player loses.
Weirder still, this rule even applies to the first level, where the Blood Alcohol Content of the player is set to 0%. That’s right: when the game starts, the driver is sober, and so must deliberately ram another car, pedestrian, or inanimate object to move on. When I started I didn’t know this, so I wasted minutes carefully maneuvering the streets. Some players might find it easy to get in an accident right off the bat. Even when sober the controls are peculiar and unresponsive.
This last point really hurts the stated purpose of the game. If its reason for being is to show how drinking impairs one’s ability to operate a car, then the least they can do is show that not drinking makes driving relatively simple. Beyond this fault, it’s still hard to imagine this game winning over hearts and minds, even in its native Romania. The later, drunker levels jumble up the car’s controls, misreport the driving speed, and make everything look blurry. There’s also an overwrought double-vision effect. No one who has had a drink will find the simulation all that convincing, so why would a drunk, overconfident person keep it in mind before getting behind the wheel?
While it’s impossible to accurately rate the app based on how effective a teaching tool it is, it’s best to just treat it as a game. And, as a game, the graphics leave something to be desired. The look of it is choppy, a bit reminiscent of Hard Drivin’ for the old 16-bit Sega Genesis. The cut scenes between car accidents, on the other hand, look like they were drawn with Microsoft Paint. Put another way: not so good.
Judged by the criteria of any iPhone app, there are still greater problems. I never could play the last level, as the game kept crashing at 0.08% BAC. (Maybe that was to simulate an alcoholic blackout?)
For those interested, the app will also tell you drunk driving statistics for Romania, as reported by the Romanian police. Like the rest of it, there’s little point in revisiting this section after you’ve seen it once.
Don’t Drink and Drive! is a free download, so hop on over to the App Store if you’re the least bit curious. It’s free, just as any public service advert should be. If this game could be recommended for anyone, it would be for players so young that they are not yet familiar with drinking or driving. That will help the game remain plausible, and maybe even effective. There is some blood in this game, so it probably isn't suitable for very young players.