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Review: Darwinia, awesome inspired retro game

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:25 pm
by weasels
It's been a long time since I last did a review. The reason for this is that I like to do games that are either not known to the general public, not known much in the retro community, or simply is a game that has not been covered in reviews or media. It's not always easy finding games for a retro gaming community that isn't well known. I'm going to do a two part review on a series of games that I am shocked to find is not really paid attention to, even in the retro community. Today I'm are talking about the great retro inspired series: DARWINIA (and MULTIWINIA)! The games are both on the PC platform (steam offers it as well) and Xbox 360. I picked up my copy of Darwinia on the PC long before the game hit the 360 or steam on a compact disk. I loved the game, but it wasn't until recently that I played the sequel/expansion Multiwina that I really felt that it was time to tell the masses about it. So without Further ado, lets start with Darwinia.


Darwinia is a game created by Introversion Software: the creators of games like “Uplink” and “DEFCON”. It seems as the goal for the creators was to make a game that was inspired by great classic retro games and other great gamer media. But before I divulge into how wonderful the game looks, lets talk about story. Darwinia's story is rather simple, but effective enough. A great Scientist has created one of his crowning achievements: the worlds first digital theme-park, called Darwinia. You start off as a hacker of sorts, who cracks into the world before it's official launch. When there you find that the world is in full danger of a virus attack. The scientist catches you, but instead of fighting you, he asks for your help to rid the world of these viruses as well as save the sole inhabitants of Darwinia: the peaceful Darwinians. If the virus were to take over, the scientist work and data would all go down the drain. There is a reason why they Darwinians are important but I feel it's best you play the game and find out for yourself.

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Meet the Darwinians!

The game is a very interesting mixture of different types of gameplay styles. Maybe too much to cover in one review. It's Probably safe to say it mostly plays like a mixture of RTS (Real-time strategy) and an action game. Your first and main motive is to kill the viruses. Maps will be littered with many of these critters (who resemble 3D/vector versions of centipede enemies), and they all do something different. From the small worms who take one shot to die, to spiders that jump super quickly , and even a centipede like enemy that breaks off when shot and becomes multiple enemies.

some of the many enemies you will encounter

Between killing off the virus, there are many small main objectives on each map like harvesting enemy souls to create more Darwinians, protecting them, starting up machinery to create weapons, and open portals to new levels. How you accomplish this is through several types of “programs” as the game calls them. They all have there own functions and serve a full purpose. First of all is the squad. This program is your mainline of defense, and originally come in a pack of 3. You control them simply by clicking on their destination. The main catch is that it is your task to aim and shoot the lasers as well. You can also launch a grenade and much more as you play the game.

some of the squad fighting some virus

Then comes the Engineers. These guys are quite defenseless but they serve as soul collectors and they repair buildings like the incubator and a transportation dish. Taking control of these buildings also allow you to use it as a spawn point for your programs. And Finally there is the officer comand. This allows you to promote a darwinian as to be able to guide the other darwinians to various locations. There is a snag to these programs as you are limited to that amount your can summon. Starting at about Three programs, as you continue you will get the ability to summon more and you always have the ability to terminate a program you don't need anymore. Beyond all of this there is various ways to upgrade these programs by telling the doctor in what is called “the task manager”. Here over time the doctor will research and unlock upgrades including more grenades, a bigger squad, the abilities for darwinians to shoot lasers, etc. And even Beyond this you will be able to find special programs and upgrades on certain maps. The result is actually quite refreshing as you go on in the game. At first it can be quite daunting, but it eventually all clicks into place and makes for a really fun game.

Now on to my favorite part of the game, the look. To many people, this game may look like an old game, with really crappy graphics. But to the retro game enthusiast, it's 100% apparent that this game is complete homage to everything retro, in fact some of the inspiration is very easy to pick out. From Centipede and cannon fodder, to polygonal and vector style games, and even The classic computer and game inspired cult-classic movie tron.

look familiar?

You can see the awesome clouds very much as if from tron. And the polygon styled oceans and landscapes. The Darwinians are super flat which is really great for the game. There is even a great blur effect in some of the programs that let off hints of small pixels. From a retro gamers perspective, this game is absolutely beautiful, and the game runs super smooth (well as long as your pc can run the game, and at this point there should be no one that can't). And then there is the atmosphere. The games music is awesome. There are great and catchy techno beats along with ambient sounds and great sound effects. And along with the look you get some excellent lighting to really set the mood. Even more is the really awesome alternating opening to when you start up the game. For example: there is an opening that resembles the Cracktro text scroller from old cracked games that were featured on the commodore 64 and other platforms. There is an intro referencing the matrix digital rain effect, replacing 0's and 1's for Darwinians. Some more include the theme of Cannon fodder, to an Awesome ZX Spectrum. There are a few more too, and some are quite elaborate.

As much as I hate blowing a game out of proportion, my goal is to spread this game to as many retro game fans as possible but, it's not fair if I don't give some criticisms. To be honest I don't think this should ever deter you from buying this excellent game. The game has no real Game over. That doesn't mean the game is easy though! As it can still posses a great challenge. All in all though, The whole package is something any true retro gamer could respect. Darwinia is a game made for fans of retro games, for those who remember the small little things that made old games special. The game, can be called simplistic, but as any retro gamer would know, simplistic is not always a bad thing, and if used correctly can be great fun. This is what I think Darwinia is: A fun, if not simplistic, game that mixes multiple retro game styles in terms of looks and gameplay and in the end really shines and stands out from so many other games. PLEASE GET THIS GAME.

Please wait for the next part of the review: Multiwinia, the multiplayer sequel/expansion.
Written by: Weasels

Re: Review: Darwinia, awesome inspired retro game

Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:38 pm
by littlecallen
I'm going to have to agree with you, but Multi-winia is still better.

Re: Review: Darwinia, awesome inspired retro game

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:00 pm
A bump to an old review of a very good game. :D

Found the Website, includes a playable unique level PC or Mac demo of the game:

When I first ran the game, the intro reminded me of the C64 days!

Wiki wrote:


Darwinia features a number of intros randomly selected when launching the game. These contain a number of references that may be obscure to some players, especially those unfamiliar with older European computers. These include:

Cracktro text scroller: a spoof of the crack intros that were common among pirated computer games, especially on platforms popular in Europe, such as the Amiga and Commodore 64. The text humorously references both coding for 38 hours straight and finishing the intro in 12 minutes. Allegedly, the release of Darwinia on the Steam platform was delayed for several hours when a Valve employee saw the intro and believed there had been a security breach.

The Matrix: one intro features green Darwinians dropping from the top of the screen to form a logo, a reference to The Matrix (See Matrix digital rain).

Real-time Raytracer: another cracktro-style intro featuring a raytraced scene of spinning spheres. This was a popular effect in many old demo scene productions.

Cannon Fodder: a black screen displaying the text "This game is not in any way endorsed by Sensible Software" while the beginning of the theme from Cannon Fodder plays. The text is a reference to the message that shows at the start of Cannon Fodder, "This game is not in any way endorsed by the Royal British Legion." Some see this as an acknowledgement of Cannon Fodder's influence on Darwinia.

ZX Spectrum: one of the intros is designed to look like the ZX Spectrum when loading a tape-based game.

Life: a simulation of the cellular automaton game of Life in which Darwinians live, die and spread in a grid based on just a few basic rules.

MBTI into: this intro scrolls through the four dichotomies on a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, listing introversion last as it is the name of the developer.


Re: Review: Darwinia, awesome inspired retro game

Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:46 pm
by weasels
CRTGAMER wrote:A bump to an old review of a very good game. :D

Found the Website, includes a playable unique level PC or Mac demo of the game:

awesome, i need to check this out.