|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|
Control-wise, you'll still run into a few of the qualms frequently bestowed upon RTS titles: troublesome path finding, occasional difficulties in managing larger groups of units, and the propensity for units to wander when not under your direct command. The latter is perhaps the bigger issue of the three, but it's easily solved by replacing lost units or keeping tighter reign over your army. In this case the complaints are minor, and the solid game design holds up well. Combat is frequently a game of bait-and-switch. You'll end up frequently using Dorian to entice enemies into pursuit only for them to be tackled and obliterated by a swarm of chattering squirrels waiting nearby. There is a decent variety of enemies of different sizes, shapes, and types, and the boss battles are quite clever.
Mana is the primary magical resource in the game; it powers your ability to summon troops and use of the various spell abilities in the game. Your mana meter slowly regenerates on its own, but it can be hastened by collecting power-ups scattered around the map, leftover from fallen enemies, and dropped by recently grown trees. When enough mana is raised, units can be summoned at the mana house that serves as your home-base on each mission map. Your woodland army will grow over time as more tree varieties are planted. In-between battles, you can use collected mana drops to boost a unit type's level, defense, power, and speed. Meeting certain stat and level benchmarks will cause your creature to evolve into a new variety of its species. You can also increase your overall numbers to substantially high levels by planting frequent trees to bulk up your forces. Every tree you plant also goes towards your overall "greening" percentage which unlocks new abilities as it increases.
Eco-Creatures is a good time overall, and the main campaign is reasonably lengthy. New enemies, scenery elements, and objectives are thrown into the mix from time-to-time to keep the somewhat repetitive gameplay from dragging, and the enticing story helps propel the game forward during lulls in the action. Unfortunately, most of the time playing a mission is simply a matter of amassing a large force and heading out to take down groups of enemies before they cut down too many trees or come to destroy you personally. It's still endlessly fun to watch dozens of squirrels pounce angrily on robot drones to tear them to bits in a matter of seconds. Continually upgrading your units, seeking to green-up the land, and earning new abilities also adds another level of fun complexity to the title. A host of multiplayer options are available for those who want to save the environment with a friend, and you can even create your own full-blown levels with the build-in Land Make editor.
The eco-friendly message and cute, cushy exterior make this game an easy-sell to parents wanting to hook their kids up with something a little more wholesome than your average beat'em up, but Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest packs enough substance to hold up under the scrutiny of those whose gaming tastes lean towards the more mature end of the spectrum.
CCC Staff Contributor