|a game by||Anark|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 2 votes|
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Finally, a game with some originality. Galapagos is Anark’s introduction to the gaming industry. What makes Galapagos and Anark stand on a different island, so to speak, is the technology they have developed and implemented in Galapagos. One of the largest cries from all gamers has been "better AI!" Well, Anark has taken what to this day has only been a facade and turned it into the real thing. The main character in Galapagos is a little creature that actually has a "mind" of its own. Its name is Mendel and it has been developed with Anark’s NERM (Non-stationary Entropic Reduction Mapping) technology. This technology allows Mendel to learn from its mistakes and to react appropriately to its environment.
The story revolves around the world of Galapagos, a cyberworld that is quite unlike any other we have seen. There is no concept of up and down as we have come to know it; rather, surfaces have varying degrees of gravity. If Mendel walks to a curved edge of a wall or platform, it will continue and your viewing angle will change appropriately. There are moving platforms, rivers of acid, portals to new fantastic areas and more. Mendel has been created by the beings of Galapagos as an artificial intelligent war machine. The beings of Galapagos create portals to other worlds and release thousands of mechanical war machines that devastate and assimilate the world. Before Mendel, all this was relatively well except for one thing. Lacking any intelligent direction, many of these machines were unable to avoid their own destruction, wasting valuable resources. Mendel is the first of a new generation that has the ability to learn and adapt to its environment. After sufficient training by the Galapagos, a creature like Mendel will be virtually unstoppable. Your mission is to lead Mendel out of Galapagos before this happens.
Despite the story behind Galapagos, this is purely a 3D-platform puzzle game. There are virtually no other characters or enemies to deal with. You do not fight off rabid machine warriors or the beings of Galapagos, and there is next to no suspense ala action-3D titles. Don’t get me wrong, though; you will find plenty of suspense, sometimes almost too much suspense, but it’s more akin to watching someone sleepwalking off a cliff who turns in just the nick of time, after doing the same thing about five times before. The only thing is you get to influence it all. Instead of controlling Mendel, you control its environment. Mendel walks around sensing edges it can fall off and heat that can burn itself. Mendel is always moving, looking for a clear path to follow. At first, Mendel will walk off ledges to its demise, but because Mendel has the ability to learn from its mistakes, it will eventually stop making the same mistakes. Your job is to give Mendel a clear path to follow. You do so by left-clicking on different parts of the environment. Doing so will cause the environment to change and open a path for Mendel to follow. Right-clicking on Mendel will slightly influence its direction.
A classic example would be a number of moving platforms Mendel must cross. Clicking a platform causes it to move in the opposite direction. With Mendel on one moving platform, you click on an adjacent platform right when the two are lined up. Now Mendel moves over to the next platform. You continue doing this until you reach a goal. Although Mendel is a slow walker, you will find the addicting concentration found in the likes of Tetris. A note of warning for those not accustomed to puzzle games: because Mendel is a learning entity, and not set by a number of pre-programmed expressions, you will have to have a lot of patience to play this game. You will find yourself cursing at Mendel, "You stupid idiot, go this way!!!" But what makes Galapagos stand out from any other game I have played is that you are actually watching an entity grow and learn. It’s like having a computer pet that you not only get to train and watch, but you get to lead it through an intriguing universe.
Galapagos takes puzzle games to the current level of 3D graphics only found in your best 3D action titles. Everything is true 3D and vibrant. As far as feel, it’s like the moviemixed with a dash of New Age. (If you haven’t seen Tron, rent it; it’s a video gamer's cyber-dream.) In Galapagos you will find marble hallways, moving streams of acid, and neon lighting galore. Because you do not control Mendel directly, your view angle will change automatically as it moves along. The angles for the most part are all well-done, but there will be times when the angle makes it next to impossible to click on what you need to click on to continue. At first I found this quite annoying, but in time I realized that this actually makes the game more fun and challenging. If the view was always perfect, it would be way too easy and hence boring. A warning for those of you who get "sea-sick" playing games with moving environments: if any game will get you, this one will. I never had vertigo before this one. Galapagos also makes use of DirectX 5, which makes the environment as sharp as they come with absolutely no pixelation. I ran the game on a P233 MMX 64M with an S3 Virge 4M 2D/3D and a Pure 3D 6M 3Dfx based board. I also tested on a P90 40M with a Rendition Verite 4M based board. Galapagos ran beautifully on all three video cards, although the Verite and 3Dfx were slightly better as expected.
The audio for Galapagos is, for the most part, well done and quite varied. Mendel bleeps when you click on it, kind of like R2-D2. Sounds appropriately match moving objects and switches you activate. Everything sounds digitized and clean. There is no music, which I actually preferred. I found that the lack of music directed my focus on the environment and its sounds, making me feel like I was actually in the environment with Mendel.
The documentation for Galapagos is more than adequate. To be honest, with a game like Galapagos, documentation is not really needed. One nice thing about Galapagos is that you can pretty much start right off the bat. Controlling the game is about as simple as it gets. You simply point, click, and watch. You and Mendel will learn as the game moves along.
P90, 16 MB RAM, 10 MB hard drive space, DirectX 5 compatible video card at 640x480, 256 color, 2X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 5 compatible sound card, mouse
Galapagos is a first in two areas. First, it takes puzzle games to a new level graphically with a 3D environment as rich and absorbing as 3D action titles. Second, it introduces what gamers have been wanting for a long time, real artificial intelligence. It’s mind boggling to realize that Mendel is responsive to the environment and is actually "alive" in this artificial world. You begin to see Mendel as a pet, and actually feel for Mendel when it falls into a pit of acid and you hear its little cries of pain. In the end it is that realization, along with some fantastic puzzles in a truly mind-boggling 3D environment, that makes Galapagos stand apart from any other game to date. Anark and the NERM technology is something I will have my eyes on for some time to come. I can’t wait to see what they do with it next. My brother-in-law Ali said it would be interesting to see Mendel in a real world environment like a jungle or the like. We’ll see... Overall, Galapagos gets an 87 out of a 100 for originality, the introduction to "real" artificial intelligence, and taking puzzle games to a new level.