Thursday, December 5, 2013

Darwinism (Game Review)

From those great people at TrueToken comes another great game for the Firefox OS Phone. This time it is Darwinism, and is all about evolving creatures into other creatures. True Token is a really cool game company in Kiev (or Kyiv), Ukraine. I really loved one of their games I reviewed earlier, Steel Story. This game reminds me a little of Boom Town, an HTML5 game that AppMobi created to demonstrate that you could make one HTML5 game and port it to every possible form factor. Darwinism is similar to Boom Town, only in that it uses a clever way to adapt a match-three game to something else besides falling jewels.

So here's how Darwinism starts:

Colorful, good art, gets right to the point of things. The splash screen lets you Play the game, get some hints on what evolves to what, gives you Help, and allows you to turn off the music (but the music is really great).

If you press the question mark for Help, here is what you get:


You see the game board and learn fire burns and that you need to match three of a kind to create a new species. That is the essence of the game, but there's more.

If you go back to the main menu and choose Evolution, you'll get a little taste of how the game works.

Right here at the start, you can see that the Amoeba is the lowest animal (one-celled) and that they then can turn into a Jellyfish. How? By combining them! Just get three Amoebae and you've got yourself a nice purple Jellyfish. And then ... get three Jellyfish and you can turn them into a Fish.

But before you start, Darwinism gives you something that most games don't, but should. You can choose between Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert, and Ultimate. I really like this kind of thing because I can learn the game on the Easy setting and then work my way up to Ultimate. I also really like the extra touch that True Token takes by making the choices look like carvings. A lot of work went into this game and it adds up to a great experience.

You can only choose Easy at first anyway, but the point is that this game has a lot of replay value. So when you start out Easy, you are given a mission: create a lizard!

By following the pictures, you can see that you need to use Amoebae to make Jellyfish, and then on to Fish, and finally onto ... Lizards. Seems logical to me. Fish can become Lizards. So now you're ready to start evolving.

The game even walks you through the steps the first time. You have a 5 by 5 grid that you play in. The piece you play is above the grid on the left. You simply tap where you want to put the piece. Put the Amoeba next to another Amoeba.

Working up your way on the evolutionary ladder, eventually you'll combine three Fish and make a red Lizard.You've finished the first round! You also have a score of 3000, reflecting how long it took you to get there.

When you play, the last of the three creatures that you play determines where the new creature will appear. So if you play Jellyfish - Jellyfish - Jellyfish, the new Fish will appear where the last Jellyfish was placed, and the other two disappear.

But there's three more twists that give this game extra strategy.
  1. If you don't want to play the creature that is next up (on the left), you can tap it and the creature will jump over to right and wait. You can then play the next creature up instead. If later you want to use the creature you set aside, just tap the one that's ready to go and it will trade places with the one you saved.
  2. When you start out, there are a few ice squares. Every once in a while, an ice square will appear and eventually you need to play it. If the board fills up with ice squares, the round is lost.
  3. But every so often you'll get a fire tile. This can be used to melt ice squares (or other creatures) to get them out of the way. Part of the strategy is to place tiles so that you can get three of a kind next to each other, and then they can form a new grouping to evolve again.
So all this fits together neatly to make a game that you can play for a few minutes at a time, and do some thinking while you do it. And the music is fun to listen to, nice percussion music that evokes the primitive world.

I really enjoyed this game and I'm looking forward to more fun from the boys in Kyiv. One of the things that is cool about Firefox OS is that people are contributing to the success of the project from all around the world. I'm going to start a side project to keep track of all the games I review and see what countries they come from. If you know of a game from a country I haven't covered, let me know!

Also, thanks to Christian Heilmann (@codepo8) who mentioned this game earlier today on Twitter. Requests are always welcome!

Cost: Free
Genre: Match Three
Score: 6 (out of 5)
Tested on: ZTE Open (Firefox OS)
Get it at: Firefox Marketplace

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