This action-puzzle hybrid is too slow and weak to survive.
- There are monkeys.
- Fetch is for dogs
- Too much waiting
- Inconsistent from top to bottom
- Terrible production values.
D3's The Adventures of Darwin is a powerful assault on evolutionary theory, and a convincing argument in favor of intelligent design. But it's not a good game. Instead, it's like the primitive, knuckle-dragging ancestor of one, namely Pikmin. You see, if evolution worked like it's supposed to, this game would have come out before Pikmin, maybe by about 35,000 years or so. But no, video game evolution works backward, beginning with an intelligent design and ending with countless dim-witted offspring. This is the story of one such far-fallen apple.
The story begins when a monkey named Darwin has a dream about an approaching asteroid that will wipe out his monkey town if he and his simian friends don't evolve. That's right--monkey town, where monkeys live in houses, drink at bars, and craft shrapnel grenades in monkey armories. But they need more in order to escape impending doom: a giant flyswatter, or maybe a nuclear asteroid shield. Those are just guesses--all you know is that an asteroid is coming, monkey town is in danger, and you must head out into the world with brave monkey mates to collect stuff and bring it back. By collecting everything in the world, you're bound to find a cure for asteroids.
When you leave your village, you run around in a hub area with four different exits, three of which are blocked by obstacles. So you run through the open tunnel into a jungle area, and you see a green field containing four different fruits lying on the ground next to a piece of wood, raw iron ore, a red star, and a yellow star. You also discover that three monkey friends have come to help with the scavenging.
As you move, the monkeys follow you, so you and your gang do what's natural and head for some fruit. You discover you can either eat or carry it. Eating, by the way, restores health. So you elect to carry it. When you do this, a "0/1" pops up to tell you that it takes one monkey to carry the fruit. So, one of your three monkeys picks it up. Next, you and the troop mosey over to the yellow star. Yellow stars, you discover, grant more monkeys, so suddenly you have four monkey friends. The red star, on the other hand, restores lost monkeys. Finally, you check out the raw iron ore just sitting there, and discover that it can only be carried by three monkeys. You have three free monkeys ready and willing, so you tell them to grab it.
Now that your monkeys are all holding things, you return to town, where you are greeted by a score screen that adds the point totals of things you have brought back, and converts them into experience that goes toward your village's next level. That's right, your village has "levels," and every time you bring back new stuff, you help it level up. As it gains levels, your town also gains buildings. Most of these can be ignored; the ones that can't include the bar (get more monkeys), the mess hall (heal monkeys), and the store (purchase power-ups).
Leveling up your town is your primary objective, but to do that, you need to bring every single new thing you find in the field home with you. This means constant trips back and forth, and lots of loading screens as the game transitions from rendering the jungle in which the mushrooms grow to the arduous town task of converting mushrooms into points. You'll spend 10 seconds grabbing all the junk you can carry, then 30 waiting for it all to be added up so you can go out and grab more. It's Fetch, with lots of waiting.
But Fetch is not the whole game. There are two other elements: environmental puzzles and boss fights. Every level contains at least one of each. The puzzles are usually simple (rotating stone blocks to deflect a stone ball), but the bosses are hard. They're big animals that can kill your monkey men quickly. Your only hope is to load up on power-ups from the store, and use them all while collecting red stars to keep your mindless monkey troop on its feet. When you defeat a boss, you gain a new piece of technology that will allow you to pass on to another level, as well as reach previously unreachable areas in other levels.
There are other nuances, but these are either completely irrelevant or illogical. For instance, after the first level, you develop half a dozen weapons, including various types of axes and spears. Yet, aside from the fact that spears can hit flying enemies, the differences between your arms are difficult to discern, thanks to a confusing point system. Also, your townspeople are supposed to sound smarter as they evolve, yet they still only say the same dumb things, just with many more words.
As you might imagine, the overall production is primitive. The graphics are a trip back in time to 1996, and the artistic style has less unity and meaning than cave paintings. Why on earth is there a yellow star sitting next to a pile of iron ore? And why is this elephant boss wearing Roman armor? The only noteworthy item of aural origin is the fact that every time you hit the X button (the main button in the game), all your monkeys will make the same sound in unison. If you hit the button repeatedly, the sound will repeat unnaturally fast, not like a hooting pack of apes, but like a sample on a Casio keyboard. How primitive.
Not that primitive endeavors are inherently bad. After all, even a stone tied to a stick can be an effective and lethal weapon when crafted of quality materials by caring hands and a sharp mind. The Adventures of Darwin, on the other hand, is a weak and careless product. It will pass quietly into history and bargain bins, along with all the other unnatural selections.