Hordes of strategy and simulation games have stampeded into the PC and video game markets, but only the fittest survive.
Crossover Technologies is no stranger to Darwin's theory of natural selection. Its latest offering in the Discovery Channel's PC multimedia series, Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life, is a strategy title that challenges players - not to build empires or make money, but to evolve the fittest form of life for the hostile environments of pre-history.
Players start the game with one species of animal, depending on the time period they select. For example, players who choose the Paleozoic period could end up with a pack of tulerpetons (amphibious salamander-type creatures) or some other such lower form of life. Players help their creatures multiply, evolve and dominate the creatures of other players. The winner is the first to completely dominate the world (by scoring the most points), usually by being the first player to develop intelligent life.
Like the early mammals it portrays, Evolution has one advantage over its competitors in the strategy rat race: It's small and doesn't eat much. It requires only 10 megabytes of disk space, a 60-Mhz Pentium processor, 16 megs of memory, and a double speed CD-ROM - not much by today's standards. For the best playing experience, however, Crossover recommends 40 megabytes of disk space, a 166MHz Pentium processor, 32 megs of RAM and an 8X CD-ROM.
Evolution enjoys other competitive advantages, including options galore. Players can evolve their creatures into 170 different species to adjust to 10 different varieties of terrain and more than 30 different varieties of plant life. Other factors, such as natural disasters, climate changes and continental drift can affect the development of a player's animals, too.
Players can track these effects with graphs and maps and respond by commanding their animals to move, attack competing populations or evolve into new species. Evolution offers network and Internet play for its more competitive players.
Despite these advantages, Evolution has a fundamental design flaw. Its timetable and the complex list of factors you're supposed to manage make it look like a resource management simulation. But its command structure and goals more closely resemble a strategic combat simulation.
The disjointed focus and awkward control system can be frustrating. The quick passage of time (one second equals 2000 years) and the constant competition from computer or human opponents don't leave much time to wade through the menus and screens that control and maintain your animal population.
So, while Evolution is an original game idea, its execution leaves something to be desired. It will need more than the Discovery Channel's logo to keep your interest from going extinct.
For information, contact Crossover Technologies at 212-777-1190 or see the game's web site at http://evolution.discovery.com.
Pub Date: 6/22/98