Darwinia+ Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Feb 16, 2010

Darwinia+ combines the story-based Darwinia, and the multiplayer-focused Multiwinia. The bundle delivers one of the most robust and satisfying experiences to hit Xbox Live Arcade, and while it has a few issues here and there, there is a lot to love.

The Pros
  • Great mix of RTS and action
  • Charming and quirky design
  • Fantastic sound design and soundtrack
The Cons
  • Controlling units can be frustrating at times
  • Not always clear what to do/how to do it

Darwinia+ combines the story-based Darwinia, and the multiplayer-focused Multiwinia. The bundle delivers one of the most robust and satisfying experiences to hit Xbox Live Arcade, and while it has a few issues here and there, it’s definitely worth investing some time in, because there is a lot to love.

Darwinia+

Small Beings, Big Problems

The world of Darwinia is an instantly engaging one, since it takes place inside a living computer network inhabited by an endangered race of beings known as the Darwinians. The world’s creator, Dr. Sepulveda, has enlisted your help to rid his virtual world of a massive computer virus that is threatening to exterminate the Darwinians for good.

Taking the fight to the virus, and its various monstrous incarnations, unfolds in a kind of Geometry Wars-meets-RTS style. You create units such as engineers and assault squads, and you can either tell them where to go, or take direct control over them and guide them around the battlefield. Although, if you want an area cleared out, there is no substitute for handling it yourself, since the computer isn’t all that adept in the combat department. Engineers play the most important role though since they are what allow you to turn on access portals and radar dishes, the latter of which let you transport troops and Darwinians between continents and on to victory.

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One of the more frustrating elements comes from moving your units around the game’s mountainous, island terrains. While there are some units (engineers and armor transports, for instance) that can travel in straight lines to their destination, regardless of water, mountains ,etc., the Darwinians and assault squads cannot. More often than not, the only way to prevent units from becoming stuck in the environment -- far from their destinations -- is to move them each individually yourself. This becomes rather annoying, especially given how slowly the units move. However, the controls themselves are wonderfully executed, and since the RTS elements are super simplified, the game feels right at home on the Xbox 360, despite the historic struggles that RTS have had with consoles.

For as minimalist as the game’s design is, the intensity and satisfaction of the combat never suffers for it. It’s glorious to toss an air-raid canister into the middle of a swarm of giant spiders, snakes, mini-dragon things, and watching as your little block planes swoop in and drop a devastation payload, utterly decimating everything in the area. Most importantly, it never gets old.

Darwinia+

Little, Warring People

Multiwinia offers a much more frenetic and fast-paced experience, wrapped around several classic game modes. If you aren’t comfortable jumping right in against human opponents, you can play all of the multiplayer modes against the computer. My favorite mode was probably Capture the Statue, which (obviously) tasks you with moving giant statues across the map back to your home base. There is just something so charming about watching your little Darwinians (or Multiwinians in this case) pick up an enormous statue and carry it back to your base. It’s like watching a bunch of ants carry a French fry or some other absurdly large object that they have no business carrying. The action itself unfolds on a massive scale, and some of the most satisfying times I had with the game was bringing the camera down to ground level and just watching and listening the chaos of war ensuing all around me. Not too shabby for a game where the characters are essentially stickmen.

Natural Selection

If you’re like me, and you just never got around to checking out Darwinia on PC, now is definitely the time. Darwinia+ packs a big punch and is about as charming as a game can get. It offers a wonderful mix of RTS and action, sports crisp and unique visuals and is just an all around fun experience. Throw in the unending variety of Multiwinia, and you have one hell of a package.