I’ve been playing computer games since I was six. I don’t know how many games I have played. More than I can remember anyway, but I’ve never played anything like Darwinia. From the eye-catching box and amusing manual to the 60Mb install (really!) everything about Darwinia intrigues. What kind of game is it you ask? I’ll tell you. This game is fun. Remember that? When games were fun? Not just about flashy graphics? It really is a joy to play. Playing the game is rewarding and exciting, and levels can be completed in many different ways (check out the official forums to get an idea). Not to say that it’s non-linear, but that you can play it by your style. At heart, it's kind of a puzzle game. Normally you have to save Darwinians (little green A.I. guys) and complete an objective, killing the invading Virus on the way. However, a fair amount of strategy has to be used, but it’s not an RTS. There is no resource gathering or building bases or tank rushes. It’s done in a more, well, retro arcade way. You control a squad (you get other “units” to use later) by clicking where you want the to go, and firing with the right mouse button. Sound familiar? Yip, there is a fair bit of retro goodness in here, this arcade shooting gives a fairly large nod in the direction of Syndicate and Cannon Fodder as well as a couple of fantastic references to the Spectrum. But don’t be put off! This game is not just for geeks. There is a lot of barefaced good fun in its artificial soul. Believe me, you will start thinking that the game is really happening and these poor little guys are dying. Once you get into it, you never want to leave. Its simple graphical beauty and sound suck you in, emotional attachments to the Darwinians themselves is unavoidable. You will franticly try to save every last one of them and then rain your wrath down on the Virus for it’s evil. Some may complain about the graphics and that it lacks the nitty-gritty realistic look that we come to expect these days. I feel this would be unfair as this is not what it’s trying to achieve. Darwinia is set inside a computer (ala. Tron) and therefore has little connection with the world we see. The graphics engine is well polished and does a fantastic job with the landscapes as well as the game worlds creatures. Everything about it had this wonderful, lovely glowing warmth to it. The way objectives get lit up, the light emitted from trees, the nasty insect like Viri and the little Darwinians themselves are all beautifully displayed. Its control system is also very interesting. It uses the keyboard to move the camera (viewpoint) and the mouse for direction and selection of programs etc, sounds normal no? However, a gesture system is used to create new units, which is fun, requires skill and can make things pretty intense during big battles. The game doesn’t have a specific training area, but the first couple of levels get you used to the controls and slowly give you hints to ease you in. Sound and music are also very very good. Music is only really used during the intro and after all objectives have been met, but when they kick in, you’ll want to just sit back and listen. Warming and sometimes touching tracks with a more retro electronic beat (Spectrum style) add a lot to the atmosphere. The ambient sound is fantastic too, compromising mainly of the Darwinians and the Viri. The Darwinian’s make funny, cute little noises and are especially lovable after a sector has been cleared when they start jumping/dancing around making chirping guinea pig like sounds. The viri on the other hand make nasty insect like sounds, scratching and wriggling their way around the landscape. When “flying” about the landscape expect to hear many more sounds individual to the area, mining carts creaking around, and electricity cracking down power lines, all adding to the joy of exploring this amazing world. It’s makes me smile this game. A lot. To think that id and other huge companies now spend millions making games, only to produce something just like everything else. Technically amazing, but cold and devoid of any emotion or warmth. I feel that there is something very human about Darwinia. I bow down before it, both for it’s form, and it’s wonderfully quirky soul.
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