|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Lightweight Co. Ltd./Headlock Corporation||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
With growing concern over global warming, mass over-industrialization, deforestation, pollution, and other major problems facing the world at present, a kid-friendly DS title that hinges on increasing awareness of important environmental issues is a great idea. Majesco's Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest is not quite the first game to touch on issues of environmental concern, but it certainly covers far more ground than the few other similar games available. Furthermore, the positive message doesn't come across as contrived or insincere. It approaches a range of serious topics from a unique angle that's relevant to adults yet palatable to younger gamers.
Beneath the adorable light-hearted fantasy presentation of real-world issues, Eco-Creatures is an excellent real-time strategy game that holds up well even against other recent RTS titles on the DS like Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Heroes of Mana. The game also packs in loads of charm with a colorful presentation, cute characters, and an interesting story. It's an equally enlightening and entertaining addition to the DS' roster.
At the start of this eco-adventure, Mana Woods - a serene realm where wizards, woodland creatures, and spirits could once co-exist in harmony - falls onto troubled times. The neighboring "evil" kingdom has taken to messing up the cheerful status quo for the forest denizens by mucking up their rivers, chopping down their trees, scattering the green landscape with foul factories, and sending robotic servants to propagate heinously polluting industry. You'll play as a giant, lovable spiky-fruit wizard in training named Dorian who must rally the forest's creatures to mount a resistance against the mutated and mechanical forces of the invading kingdom and restore the damage caused to the environment. Once the story gets rolling, you'll find there's more to the invaders than meets the eye. Plenty of funny and serious moments alike can be found scattered throughout the goofy adventure.
Eco-Creatures offers a slightly different take on the RTS format that's actually quite manageable once you've had an opportunity to play around with it. Dorian is large slow-moving avatar players control directly via the d-pad. The camera follows his movements, so he serves as the focal point for exploration and combat as you move through areas of the map. Dorian's primary role is that of a support unit, since he can't attack foes directly. Collecting power-ups, planting trees, and defeating foes will earn the little guy extra mana reserves which can be used to cast a range of helpful spells. On his own he's vulnerable to attack, but most of the time players will be sure to keep him surrounded by a horde of furry pals that are often more than happy to charge into battle for him.
All of your troops fall under three main species which are controlled with the stylus. The Ecolis are pink basic squirrels who are good fighters, and their synchronized dances grow unique trees used to summon additional units. The blue Ecomon are flying squirrels who are a bit timid in battle, but they can travel over different terrain levels and also carry objects around the battlefield. Ecoby, orange beaver-like creatures, are useful for quickly demolishing enemy structures or building helpful ramps and bridges on the map to reach new areas. With a quick tap or two it's possible to select all units in the immediate vicinity and command them to follow Dorian, or you can tap colored buttons at the corner of the screen to select only one species at a time. Also, units can be selected individually or circled in small groups. Once selected, groups of units can be set to attack enemies, use special abilities, defend a location or stick close to Dorian with simple stylus commands.