Darwinia+ is unlike any other game I've played. Using retro stylized graphics to create a beautiful blend of both new and old. Most importantly though, Darwinia+ is fun and doesn't get old quickly! While D+ is a strategy game, you need to be aware that this is not your typical Command and Conquer clone of building a base and sending troops into battle. Also note that Charles Darwin the philosopher does not make an appearance, though his beliefs may be an underlying theme present. Getting ahead of myself, if you like strategy games or trippy action games- this is a purchase to heavily consider.
Before even getting into the gameplay, Darwinia+ sets the mood with an amazing intro showcasing the graphics whilst playing fantastic 8-Bit esque music. I was awe struck by the emotions created through simplistic music and dynamic use of camera twists; not that it had much to do with the game, but it was certainly a treat. Once I plunged into the true game, a tutorial existed to guide me through an easy level without implying I've never played a Video-Game before. Darwinia+ tends to assume a lot about the player; objectives can often seem confusing or misguided. Most of the time however it was a matter of common sense to determine what I was doing wrong, though more tutorials within the menus would have saved me a great deal of frustration.
In game, Darwinia is explained as a virtual world, with living habitats known as Darwinians. At first seemingly pointless, storytelling devices successfully make you feel much closer to the Darwinians than you would think possible. I won't spoil anything; just know that Darwinians are described as very human in nature. Gameplay can be a bit complicated in the end, but as you progress through the campaign each new feature or goal is taught to you firsthand. Early levels may only require you to kill a certain amount of enemies, or capture three or four goals. Later on you’re taken back at the sheer size of an opposing army. Some levels are quite intimidating, often taking an hour+ (pun intended) to finish completely. Oddly enough, winning in the single player tended to be an easy experience; sometimes even effortless. Apparently, you can never completely “lose” in a level; you can be overrun, or lose all your men. However there's nothing stopping the player from building an infinite number of new troops and reattempting to gain land. While the difficulty is easily accessible to all audiences (unheard of in a strategy game), finishing a level may seem to some as a “grueling grind.”
Apart from the true Darwinia+ game, multiplayer exists in a whole new form called Multiwinia! This mode acts as a much truer strategy title. Less about taking the role of a soldier and killing; more about actual strategy. In Multiwinia, you cannot build units the same way as in Darwinia. Instead, you are occasionally granted the use of powers and units to help aid your troops; and stop the enemy in their tracks. I preferred the fast pace of Multiwinia to the slow yet progressive feel of Darwinia. Multiplayer is much more challenging, and dominating an opponent online is extremely rewarding. Worth mentioning is the vast amount of both game types and levels. For an XBLA title the depth in multiplayer is breathtaking; each of the five levels having seven to nine maps to play on. Up to four players can combat each other simultaneously to create giant battlefields of polygonal destruction; all while the frame rate running smoothly.
Darwinia+ is absolutely worth playing. Obviously stay away if you hate either strategy or retro graphics. Otherwise D+ is an enjoyable experience best played with friends and certainly fun alone. Graphics and audio set the mood wonderfully. Background themes and references to other games exist, though very subtlety; a nice visit into the minds of the creators. Multiplayer is one of the best in an XBLA title, and flaws can be limited to preferences of mine. Overall it’s a great game, and when the bombs are falling down over those poor Darwinians; take a moment to appreciate the visual splendor.