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.