Classic Gaming! 4 people made a 30MB game, and it's one of the best I've played this year!
Darwinia is a virtual world populated by sentient programs, which you have to save from an invading virus. The whole world looks like Tron, which makes sense, as it takes place inside a computer. Everything has a very retro feel to it, but not at all in a bad way. Normally, pixelization or obvious geometry would be a downside, but this game justifies it and revels in it, which gives it a wonderfully distinctive feel.
The gameplay is RTS based, but doesn't play like a lot of other RTS games. There are no compilcated research trees, building types required to build more buildings and units, etc. Instead, there are simple research fields to choose from, a few structures around the map that can be captured for spawn points and transportation, and only one resource - souls. The Darwinians, as intelligent creatures, have souls. Killing viruses releases souls which can then be gathered by non-combatant engineers and returned to buildings which will spawn darwinians. They, in turn, are needed to complete various objectives, usually involving restoring various systems. The Darwinians, however, cannot fight at all at first, and even when upgraded, are relatively weak. Fortunately, Squads have some firepower available. Squads are the basic fighting unit you will use, and are armed with lasers and either grenades, rockets, or airstrike beacons, once these become available. Later, armoured transports become available, and they can convert into turrets, which must be manned by darwinians (and can be captured by the enemy. argh.) Only two fighting units in a RTS game is unusual, but not at all a problem. The different strategies required for the different squad weapons, and the handling of turrets, which auto-fire at any enemy in range and will mow down any friendlies in the way (stupid little darwinians), combined with the varied challenges and terrain, give plenty of variety. Speaking of terrain, it plays a much more substantial role than many games. Often, the illusion of height is given just for visual interest. Here, if you take a hill you can almost double your grenade range; if you're firing rockets over uneven ground, they make hit too close and hurt you, etc. Essentially, take the high ground. The only issue I had with gameplay (and it's minor) was that the AI was not very good. Squads give only minimal firepower when not directly controlled, engineers completely ignore enemies and tend to put themselves in harm's way, and these I don't mind, b/c it makes you fight tactically. However, the armor acted up a bit. Sometimes it would loop 330 degrees around one way instead of 30 the other when going somewhere, and sometimes it would ignore directions. Still, very minor complaint
The graphics are siple but very effective. The retro look is well thought out and completely appropriate for the game. Enemies wil shatter into many 2D shards when killed and everything is made of simple, obvious polygons, and it complements the setting perfectly. The sound was pretty well done, if a little limited. There are combat effects and basic screams when things die, but it does get a bit repetitive. I would have liked speech instead of subtitles from the Darwinians' creator, Dr. Sepulveda, as well as a bit more variety in the effects, but it was still well done.
Darwinia is an excellent value for the money. I think it was $19.95, and I got lots of playing time out of it trying different strategies. There is also a map editor, although I haven't gotten to it yet. Plenty of bang for your buck...
Tilt is where this game shines, though. Introversion Software is a tiny company (4 people) and this is one of the finest game sI've played this year. It is original, addictive (you've been warned. seriously.) and simply a lot of fun. I doubt I'll see anything else like it, and it's a damn shame. Long story short, whether you like it for the strategy, the combat, the novelty, or just have had your computer infected before and like the idea of targeting viruses with airstrikes, PLAY THIS GAME.