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Darwinia

Score: 92%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Cinemaware Marquee
Developer: Introversion
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Rarely does a game come along that I simply can't stop playing. Darwinia was that game from the word go. It is a testament to simplicity in design, and definitely a sleeper with a lot of potential in the future.

The graphics are part of the immersive appeal, as you are playing inside of a virtual world in 3D, and the Darwinian's themselves are 2D. The look has a specific balance to it. If they used a lot of polygons, it would have lost its digital character. Too few polygons, and it would have felt way too 8bit and blocky. As it is, they could have done no better than they have done using simple structures to compose everything you see.

It didn't dawn on me, at first, why my cat was so interested in me playing this game. I later found out the voice of the Darwinians is played by Maddie the Cat. There is no vocal dialogue; everything is textual for the interface and story. The synthesizer music, old-school blips and laser fire, again, perfectly enhanced the gameplay and immersion.


Gameplay:

You are instantly thrust into a war to retake Darwinia from an evil computer virus. You enter the digital world of Darwinia created by Dr. Sepulveda who will mentor you on your journey. Darwinia is inhabited by sentient and evolving lifeforms called Darwinians. These independent lifeforms have set about their world, which exists inside a super computer, creating their own beliefs and way of life. The only problem is that like any computer, there are eventually viruses that creep in, leading up to a great war with the Virii. In order to assist while in Darwinia, you are given access to "programs" that will allow you to interact directly in the environment. There are three available spots in the menu allowing for three programs to be active and running in the world at any one time. With all of the programs, there is a system for upgrading each program. In the example of the initial three slots, you can upgrade to be able to do more things at one time.

The first thing you create is a squad of offensive bots that are armed and directly controllable to combat the red Virii menace. You use these to clear the way for your other programs and Darwinians. You can then activate an engineer program that has many useful functions. The first thing that an engineer program is used for is accessing modules that the Virii have taken over, such as radar disks that are used to beam over areas of the environment you can't travel over on foot. You will find pieces of research that are randomly found in the environment. You will use the engineer to decode these pieces of research that allow for upgrades, weapons, and tools you will need later. You will eventually have access to grenades, rockets and airial strikes. The engineer will also collect deceased lifeforms in order to return them to an incubator module and grow new green Darwinians. As you move along in the game, you then can create dual function tanks called Armors. They act as a transport, and when commanded to do so, they can be deployed as a stationary gun turret. Very handy when needing to clear out large areas.


Difficulty:

They are tricky little suckers, the Virii. It is no wonder they took over the whole of Darwinia as fast as they did. At first, they lure you in with their ease to kill, and then they do a terrific job of adapting to become increasingly more difficult each level. There is no shortage of moments to make you threaten the life of your mouse and keyboard. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, so take advantage of all of your tools and you will do fine.

Game Mechanics:

Darwinia is as easy as point and click. You simply click where you want each program to go and what you want it to do. Seems simple. It is simple. It's the Virii that go and make it hard. It is real easy to forget to deselect a unit, so when you go to instruct a different unit, they think you are still talking to them. You use your Space to accomplish deselection. Get used to this early, as it will save you some heartache later. Apparently Darwinia has undergone several rapid changes and the manual and the on-line guide were unable to keep up. There are sections in the guide relating to mechanics that do not work, such as using the mouse to draw a unit in order to spawn it. I had absolutely NO luck in this endeavor. It seems like a function that slipped through the cracks, or had to be removed.

This is my first "over 90" score on a game and with good reason. Every one of my friends I have introduced to the demo and game have all thanked me. I hope to continue more adventures with the Darwinians very soon. It is a good story and has great potential to become a far more mainstream game. Dare I predict this as a great addition to a console system such as LIVE. Well there, I said it. We shall see how it all evolves.


-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:



600Mhz processor, GeForce2 or better graphics card, 128 MB RAM
 

Test System:



Windows XP Pro, 3.2 GHz P4HT CPU, 2 GHz Ram, 256 PCIE 16 ATI X300

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated