Darwinia (PC)

By Xi Lin

Published on Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Graphics: 8.50
Sound: 7.00
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 7.50

This game plays quite nothing like I expected it to. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this game. From the manual and the pamphlet, I was not impressed by the graphics and nothing about it impressed me. Boy, imagine my dumb look when I actually caught myself enjoying the game. Darwinia sports graphics that may not amaze you in the screenshots, but damn sure works well in action. This isn’t a game without a few problems, but then again what game is 100% perfect.

The premise is simple, sort of. You’re just wandering innocently into an internet theme park when suddenly things go wrong trapped within. Suddenly, some doctor looking guy named Dr. Sepulveda pops up and asks you for help. That’s how the adventure begins. The first level is essentially tutorial mode to get the hang of things. The learning curve in this game isn’t too great, but it does get quite complicated when the game progresses.

The controls may seem awkward at first. There isn’t a complicated menu and most commands are via mouse gestures. Press alt to access the menu and then draw out little shapes to determine which program you want to run. It’s certainly isn’t the best way they could’ve done this, but it is quite creative and more often than not enjoyable. There are units you control directly, like the squads or the engineers. Then there are the units that are controlled indirectly, like the Darwinians. Darwinians are controlled by upgrading other Darwinians to officers and using them to direct. Officers can designate a spot that all Darwinians within their vicinity can flock to. Best way to explain it is like herding sheep. Other units like engineers will normally go about their tasks. Squads left alone will shoot at enemies passing by (as will Darwinians). However Squads are best controlled by you. Otherwise, they’ll get slaughtered pretty quickly. The great thing about this game is that there is no cost to start new programs. Thus deleting and opening up new ones can be done at your leisure.

The graphics amaze me to no end. It’s not that I wonder how they created the simple graphics but more of how the game looks so great in motion. From the screen captures, I had actually breathed a sigh of disappointment. That is until I booted up the game and my eyes feasted on Polygon glory. Don’t let the screenshots fool you, this game may look basic, but the graphic style goes a long way in setting the mood and atmosphere. In fact, I don’t think I could see Darwinia any other way now. One special treat Darwinia has is in its boot up animation. Every time you load Darwinia, it cycles through a random animation done Darwinia style. In fact, I kind of chuckled when I saw little Darwinians slide down my screen and recreated the infamous Matrix text. There are plenty of other ones that show off Darwinia’s superior graphic prowess. It might look simple, but its effects go a long way.

The sound effects are pretty simple in Darwinia, but it all works together so I won’t hold anything against it. They range from laser blasts to viruses screeching as they’re blasted into deletion. The explosion sound effects themselves aren’t too spectacular, but they do look neat. One problem I do have is with the music. The music in the game intro and completion of a level is wonderful. However, throughout the levels there isn’t much music. I also didn’t think the music at the end of levels fit with the music, but that may be of personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong though, the music sound great, I just had problem pairing the two.

Now onto its problems, like I said no game is without its problems. Darwinia does have its fair share of nuances. The units for example, for artificial internet beings are pretty stupid. The squads if left alone will fire one or two shots at enemies, but most assuredly they will get eaten within a few seconds. The engineers have to be at least within a vicinity of some sort of task to do something. Otherwise they’ll sit there and be useless. Granted, this might be adding that adds to the strategy, I see it as a nuance. You can delete and open programs on the fly, so there is no real loss other than time. The Darwinians themselves are essentially just digital cattle. They need to be herded around. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t get stuck in places. This goes the same for Squad units too. Seeing them just hit dead stop on a hill or around a corner is just plain moronic.

However, I can see past the idiot units and see the great game Darwinia is. The game is a breath of fresh air for the strategy genre. Not to mention going around with a Squad and blasting viruses can be very satisfying, if not even nostalgic. Some of the viruses, namely the centipede looking like ones, remind me of well…Centipede. There’s a slight arcade feel to it when you’re blasting through literally hundreds of viruses. All in all, the game is awesome and all arguments against Darwinia probably haven’t played the game for more than 15 minutes. So go get yours and save those mindless little green men!

http://www.darwinia.co.uk

Overall Rating: 8.50

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