PC REVIEW: DARWINIA

Playing Darwinian is like being able to see inside the mind of a game programmer. It's presented in a framework style, almost like a blueprint to demonstrate the gameplay. Since the gameplay is unique there is no competition, so the game doesn't have to live up to any preconceived standards. It's obvious that developers Introversion don't have a huge budget but they managed to create a minimalist masterpiece that any gamer with an imagination can appreciate.

If you're looking for farting bears that smoke cigars and swear at hookers than Darwinian is not for you. Not to suggest that cigar smoking bears with gas and a predilection for showering working girls with expletives is in any way depraved; it's just not something you will find here. Darwinian is a strategy game with a good blend of combat action and some puzzle solving. It does have some "cute" characters but they aren't what you might be thinking.

Darwinian is composed mainly of geometric shapes and symbols. There are some fully rendered, 3D environments and characters but most of the game looks like a cubist painting. It's really cool how the developers were able to create such a sense of atmosphere by understating the graphics. The storyline expels any notions of "low-budget" as long as one takes it at face value. I know it's my job to point out the flaws but in this case I can't help but feel that the developers were able to transform any flaw to flawless.

Somewhere in the digital realm live a race of digital creatures called Darwinians. They live in a virtual theme park called Darwinia which was all created by a computer scientist named Dr. Sepulveda. The Darwinians are a virtual-life program and as such they become more intelligent with each new generation. Unfortunately some have begun to mutate and have turned into a deadly virus which now threatens the stable Darwinians' very existence. These evil looking mutants come in the form of insects and viral clusters, to name a few. To keep the doctor's project and the Darwinians safe you must combat these creatures by shooting various weapons at them and outsmarting them on the virtual battlefields by using various computer programs devised by the good doctor.

Enemies will be shooting lasers and rockets at you in addition to grenades. Using the mouse to aim you will shoot back with weapons from your own arsenal. There is no auto targeting. The enemy can get very aggressive and quickly replenish themselves by laying eggs, causing you to have a nervous breakdown trying to take them all out.

Your greatest weapon is the interface where you implement computer programs to aid you. At first you can only store three of them but as you go you can boost that number up a bit. There are only a handful of programs to use and you won't be able to collect more or upgrade the ones you have. You have to work within your means - much like the developers did with this game. One program, for instance, turns a Darwinian into a commanding officer and automatically directs others close to him to follow a path that you've laid out that will bring them to safety. It's refreshing to have a restricted format where you are forced to use your brain instead of trying to unlock more and more powerful weapons to do your work for you.

The good doctor will give you advice on missions as well as explain the background of the critters and world that he's created. It's a totally believable scenario and you will actually form an attachment to these little green buggers. There are different missions that require different actions and reactions. They become more complex as the game progresses. You can expect to get between 10 - 20 hours out of the game the first time through. It's not loaded with replay value but you'll want to play it over at least once.

Midi music at the beginning of each mission reinforces the retro style of the game. There are some sound effects during the missions including the sounds of weapons and the occasional squeals of dying Darwinians. The sound is sparse but not empty.

You can purchase Darwinia online. I would heartily recommend getting your hands on this game so you can wrap your brains around it.

System: PC
Dev: Introversion
Pub: Introversion
Release: Mar 2005
Players: 1
Review by StewXX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
3.0