Genetic Species

Title		Genetic Species
Game Type	3D Action
Players		1
Compatibility	AGA (CD only)
Submission	John Haas

A visit to Vulcan's WWW site and you have several (glowing) reviews from
which to make an impression of GS.  The reviews certainly are enthusiastic
and made me want this game, but then I've gotten quite hooked on 1st
person games such as Breathless, Nemac IV, Alien Breed 3D and Doom.  I
sense from these reviews that they played the game a bit (a few minutes
maybe?) but not a great deal.  If they had played it extensively then
there probably would have been a few more negative comments.  I have a few
problems with this game as you'll see.

GS is CDRom-based and has a story line of epic proportions much like Nemac
IV.  Also, like Nemac, there is a long and ambitious animation which,
although well done, is slow-paced and tedious and will probably not be
viewed more than once.  A pity they didn't put the effort used for this
animation into polishing the game a bit more. The game will run entirely
from the CDRom or parts of it can be installed on a HD.  My CDRom drive is
slow (only a 2X) and I have a 2.1Gig HD so I decided to install the whole
thing to the HD.  This worked quite well.  If you do this don't forget to
make the necessary assignment.

The 3D engine  is amazing.  My modestly accelerated A1200 (030/40) did
quite well.  The framecount fluctuates quite a lot but seems to average
about 16 or so and frequently is 20+.  The screen size is adjustable and I
found the best performance/size setting for my Amiga was 160 x 126.  This
is not particularly large but the graphics are very high resolution (not
like AB3D!) and this screen size is entirely usable.  Full screen would be
stunning.  The performance parameters for the engine (and just about
everything else) are customizable ad nauseam.  The engine can be tweaked
to the Nth degree to get the highest possible performance.  The
documentation is good about telling you what effect setting a parameter a
certain way will have on performance.

In terms of gameplay, GS shines here.  The idea of being a "bio-shifter"
and being able to take over another being or robot forces you to think
ahead and plan your "jumps".  There are many entities to be encountered
and each has strengths and weaknesses.  There are many puzzles to
solve, some easy, some hard, and some are very hard (maybe too much so!).
I, personally, at this time, have not finished the game.  I've come
extremely close but can't quite solve the last level.  I must confess that
I'm not all together sure what it is I'm supposed to do.  This is a
criticism that I have of GS, it's not always clear what must be done.

The game is divided up into "days", four of them.  A day contains several
(5-7) "areas" which can be thought of as levels.  A simple map can be
displayed which tells the player which areas are connected to which. To
travel between areas, you must utilize a "Deck Lift" which is an
elevator.  Each area has an objective of some sort which must be
accomplished before passage to the next is granted.  As the player moves
around these areas, he finds the usual items: energy, ammo, weapons, etc.
What's interesting is that, for the most part, you can move freely from
area to area.  This is a good thing since you can only carry three items
at one time.  This forces you to leave things in various places and later
come back for them.  Something you find in one area may be useful or even
necessary to accomplish the mission in another.  This adds to the strategy.

Far and away my biggest complaint with GS is the method by which
information is conveyed to the player.  It appears right in the middle of
the screen which might not seem like a problem except that it often
appears during a period of high action when you really should be finishing
off attackers instead of reading messages.  And that's not all--sometimes
multiple messages appear--at the same time!  These super-imposed messages
make for interesting reading.  Some messages appear on the screen and
won't go away.  I believe it is at the end of Day 2 where you have to
destroy the cooling system of the enemy base and then flee through the
halls like a madman to get to the deck lift before things blow up.  You
have 30 seconds.  As soon as you destroy the last cooling device a message
appears on the screen instructing you on what to do.  Unfortunately it
obscures the entire screen and does not go away in a timely fashion.
You're forced to literally run through the halls blindly for what seems
like forever.  On the other side of the coin are the messages which appear
and then are gone before you can read them.  Several times I found myself
saying things like: "That looked important. What did it say?"  The authors
seem to be testing the players speed reading skills sometimes. The whole
messaging aspect of this game deserved much more thought.

In summation: yes, it does have more than its share of flaws but GS is a
very worthy effort and the good points far outweigh the bad.  There are
some effects which are simply stunning (such as the lighting).  The sound
is superb.  The weapons are varied and interesting.  The flame thrower
is very impressive but my favorite is the Psi Disintegrator used by the
Mantis.  The types of beings are plentiful and their behavior and
capabilities will challenge you.  Once again my favorite was the Mantis.
I've read where sales of GS have not been very good and this is a shame.
It deserves to be in every game player's library.

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