Eco


Title		Eco
Company		Denton Designs/Ocean, 1987
Game Type	3D Action
Players		1
Compatibility	ECS
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Review
"Eco - The game of life" states the packaging proudly, and you know what?
They've got a point. Eco is a third person perspective 3D game where the
challenge is Evolution itself. What am I talking about? Well, at the start
of each game a world is created for you from a set of various types,
desert, temperate, tropical, etc, and you then appear within this setting
as some type of insect. Your first task, reasonably enough, is to find
something to eat, so off you trundle, or fly, keeping a wary eye out for
predators, or just large things that are likely to tread on you.

Okay, you've eaten, now its time for sex! Sorry, but that's the way this
life game works .....apparently. Dutifully then, you march off looking for
something to erm..... impregnate. Unfortunately the climax of this
procedure is accomplished with just a click of an icon, but if you are
successful in your quest for a suitable mate you are rewarded with a visit
to the Gene Design screen. Here you are presented with three views (front,
side and top) of your current lifeform, as well as the clever bit, which
is a representation of a genetic strand with 8 attached genes. You will
eventually be able to manipulate all of these genes, thus evolving into
more advanced lifeforms. On your first visit though, you are only able to
unlock and then alter one of the genes, although the choice of which gene
is up to you. Obviously the different genes control different evolutionary
steps,  each successful (reproductively speaking) life cycle returns you
to the Gene Design screen and unlocks a further gene, and the experienced
player will soon find which ones provide the quickest routes to the more
complex lifeforms. Being a primate, for example, though does not make you
invulnerable by any means; the sting of the scorpion is still deadly to
you.

The game's graphics are fairly simple, non-filled vectors for the most
part, but quite effective, and the animation isn't bad. You'll see the sun
slowly arc upwards and the light levels change appropriately as you make
your way around this strange and dangerous world. Sound wise things are
also okay but not great; the music, which you won't want to listen to
forever, owes a lot to the good old SID chip on the C64. There's also what
sounds like some Thing-on-a-Spring influence going on, if you're
listening. The gameplay is, to be fair, straightforward. There is a radar
which allows you to be aware of predators and so on, directional arrows
for you to click on (although you can opt for the joystick, and food and
reproduction icons which help you locate the nearest tasty snack or
partner. Nothing very demanding although survival is never certain.

Eco deserves respect in my view for attempting something different,
particuarly from Ocean Software, the license game kings. It's a nice idea
and is competently executed, but it would have been nice if they had
attempted to push the idea somewhat further and offered some more depth
rather than the eat, reproduce, manipulate-the-gene cycle. It actually
plays rather like a coin-op as opposed to a game you are going to have
long and engrossing sessions with, much like the reproductive aspects of
the game in fact. Its not too difficult to unlock all eight of the genes
after surviving eight lifecycles, but while this gives you complete
freedom to experiment, it doesn't quite deliver the payoff that you might
expect. I thought I'd try being a plant for a while but life just passed
me by and eventually I died. I'm a sucker for 3D worlds and innovative
ideas though, so the game gets my vote, and I think most of you would give
it your qualified approval.




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