Darwinia+ Review

Darwinia has existed in one form or another since 2004 but now its creators, Introversion Software, bring their previously PC-only concept of a virtual world in turmoil to Xbox Live Arcade.

In Darwinia+, Dr. Sepulveda (who bears a striking resemblance to Sir Clive Sinclair, British inventor and father of the 80`s bedroom coding machine of choice, the Spectrum) has been busy creating his very own virtual world, nurturing a sentient race of single polygon beings called Darwinians. Unfortunately their idyllic existence is put at risk by a virus that has wreaked havoc across their domain.

To aid the Doctor in his quest, the player is given control of different units to help restore order. Initially comprising of the Engineer and Squad classes, the Engineer will reconfigure generators, radar dishes (used to move across vast distances) and gather up souls from enemies. These are then reborn as Darwinians, who can then be used to work equipment liberated from the virus. The Squad are your army, used to destroy the virus swarms that have taken over the lands. All units can be brought into existence and terminated with a click, meaning the player can adapt in the blink of an eye if an initial guerilla skirmish becomes more tactical.

Thankfully Doctor Sepulveda can provide additional research to not only beef up existing weapons, but also add new abilities such as air strikes and grenades. These are most welcome because as the player journeys through the game, the difficulty keeps pace with them, never leaving them overpowered and keeping them on their toes at all times. The welcome addition of Armour which can be reconfigured as a turret will save the bacon of many players, especially on the more tricky areas like Pattern Buffer.

The wireframe visual aesthetic has a retro yet futuristic look all at the same time, with Rez HD being the most obvious reference point. But there are other influences, in the form of Disney classic Tron and theres even a slight nod towards the seminal title Syndicate in the way the Squad moves and their appearance. Regardless, there is a real sense of the developers paying homage throughout Darwinia+ and it shines through.

Controls are perfect for use with the 360 pad and never feel clumsy, making the transition from Keyboard and Mouse with ease. Once the player is familiar with everything, selecting, moving and toggling units becomes almost instinctual. Unlike traditional RTS (Real Time Strategy), or even RTT (Real Time Tactics) titles, Darwinia+ doesn’t bog the player down with unnecessary resource management, focusing on a more straightforward approach. This action compliments the setting and events perfectly, adding to the overall experience and, more importantly, helping to encourage those who would normally run a thousand miles from this type of game

Even with the generous length of the single player campaign, the `+` in the games title hints at the other elements included in the package. Multiwinia, which adds a full, in-depth multiplayer experience, includes the usual stalwart modes with King of the Hill and Capture the flag (or in Multiwinia, Capture the Statue), so there`s plenty of variety on offer.

Brimming with confidence and a very uniquely British sense of humour, Darwinia+ sets itself apart from the usual Arcade titles in a way that is compelling and interesting, without sacrificing gameplay and content. While it may have cult hit written all over it in invisible letters, those willing to take a chance will find a deep and rewarding experience waiting for them.