Eco-Creatures: Save the ForestESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: Real Time Strategy
Wireless DS Single-Card Download Play
Wireless DS Multi-Card Play
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
When Majesco sent Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest for review I honestly didn’t know what was coming my way. I do remember getting a press release for the title before I got the game, and it was touted to be the first “green” videogame. I was like “what the heck, an environmentally friendly game?” Now that I have had a chance to play it, I understand what they were talking about. That game is basically meant to tell you a story about what would happen should people be negligent towards the environment, so in a sense it is a story about being “green”.
Eco-Creatures is definitely meant to be a cute game. It is presented in a quasi 3D manner with a cel-shaded look to it. I would have to say that it is definitely not what one would expect in a real-time strategy title. But then again, with a title like Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest, what would you expect? The game’s creatures are definitely interesting. The best way that I can describe the main hero is that he looks somewhat like a walking talking fat pineapple. His armies are as cute as they come too and you would not expect them to be harbingers of doom. Given the fluffy feel of the game everything looks very appropriate with ample use of bright and cheery colors. If I have any complaint about the visuals it would be that is can seem blocky at times (e.g. rocky hills or rivers) and there is the odd bout of slow down that rears its ugly head now and then. I was somewhat surprised by the latter given that the title does not push the limits of the DS hardware. Overall the game is very adorable though and the visuals are simple, solid and get the job done.
The sound in Eco-Creatures matches the visuals to a tee. They are cute, upbeat and light hearted. It does manage to change tempo while your playing too. This is evident when you are just exploring to when you find yourself in the midst of a battle. The change in the music is just right and manages to convey the change in the on-screen action perfectly. The music is not that annoying for a ‘cute’ game either and I didn’t find myself turning down the volume during my time play time. As for the rest of the sound effects, they too manage to keep with the theme of the title. Although title is all about battle the sounds still manage overall light heartedness that is found in the graphics. From the simulated squeaks of the critters to attacking large enemies in mass, everything is conveyed through the speakers quite well.
Eco-Creatures is a story with a mission: to teach gamers what may happen should they and anyone else treat the environment with disrespect. The main tale focuses on Dorian, a talking ogre who uses an army of small woodland creatures in attempt to take over the neighboring kingdom and stop them from polluting precious land. His army is basically the equivalent to a modern day band of tree hugging terrorists, but in animal form. It is a neat premise and something that I found somewhat interesting as it actually tries in a round-a-bout way to teach the laurels of being good to Mother Nature.
Battles are fought in real-time, and the developers have penned Eco-Creatures to be a real-time strategy game (RTS). You will take your band of critters through 40 missions, which are all quite similar in nature given that you have to destroy certain objects or enemies the majority of the time. Now I have to admit I have never been a die-hard RTS fan so I am quite uneducated when it comes to a lot of these types of titles. That being said, I can confidently say that this is not a die-hard RTS game as there is a lot of simplicity to the overall mechanics of what you can do, especially when compared to some of the hardcore RTS games out on the market today. There is not a lot of resource managing nor are there a lot of things to have to build. I was kind of amazed with the lack of such, however given the premise and nature (editor’s note: pun not intended) of Eco-Creatures I assume the target audience is not for the older hardcore gamer out there. As I played each level and got deeper into the game it got the levels did get a little more complex and the enemies became bigger and little tougher to vanquish. If anything I did find that I did have to think a little more as I ventured through the latter half of the game.
I found the control pretty easy to pick up and play, especially for a title in this genre. You control Dorian with the D-pad as he lumbers about the levels. You then stop walking in order use the DS’s touch screen to bring up the menu and choose your plan of attack. If I have any complaint in this area it is that during this point in time enemies have ample opportunity to hand you a can of whoop ass. I attribute this to the inability of the game to realize that I had to bring up a menu system in order to take control of my attacks. Of course as this is an RTS so you do control armies of critters. This is quite easy to master in Eco-Creatures and I found it somewhat humorous to watch innocent squirrels get their “rage on” in an effort to kick some butt.
In terms of the control I did find myself frustrated now and then as I was not able to send enemies to all areas I wanted to in one single order. You can only send your ‘soldiers’ to the areas that Dorian can see. This was strange as the game does display an overview of the battlefield on the upper screen, and you do have the ability to scroll around the level and do some scouting, however you cannot send your troops to separate sections of the level via such things as markers or whatnot. This was most evident when seeing enemies on different parts of the level. In order to fight them I would have to select a troop, venture over to the group of enemies, tap the area for battle, and then walk back and do it again, specifically if I wanted to fight another group. I attribute what seems to be some control quirks to the fact that Eco-Creatures is most likely not targeted toward the diehard RTS player out there, so this seemed simple to do as you don’t have to try to micromanage your movements.
The developers have included a multiplayer mode, via local connection or over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The game is quite simple as you have to try to plant trees while enemy AI, in the form of robots, attacks you. If you are looking to battle is out critter versus critter, then think again as planting trees is the only multiplayer option available. Sure it is a straightforward premise and it can be boring, but once again I think this was done on purpose as the target audience is the younger crowd who may not be adapt at RTS games.
Although Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest is an RTS game, it is definitely not aimed at those who are hardcore into the genre. When looking at the graphics, sound and gameplay together it is clear that this game is targeted at a younger and simplier audience. I honestly think that those looking for a true strategy experience will be disappointed; however those fans who may want to get the younger ones into this style of game should to take a close look Eco-Creatures for sure.