The quintessential god game of the late 1980s, Populous was the startlingly original work that launched the career of Peter Molyneux and helped define a new genre on home computers. Whether it’s still relevant today is another matter, although we distinctly remember the original being more flexible than this stilted DS update.
The basic premise of the game is you’re a god, you’ve got a tribe of people who worship you, and on the other side of the world there’s a rival god with his own set of followers. The two of you can’t co-exist peacefully, so you’ve got to help your people become strong enough to obliterate their rivals.
In order to strengthen your tribe, you have to create suitable conditions for them to build huge settlements. Raising and lowering the land to create flat expanses helps them develop dwellings, and they’ll reward you by generating mana, which you use to rain down destructive miracles on the enemy.
What’s odd about the DS version is the limited selection of powers. There isn’t much you can do to improve your chances other than flattening the land as quickly as possible to facilitate the spread of your population. There’s a limited mana penalty for doing this, and while a misplaced click might have proved costly in the early stages of the original, here you can have a landscaping blitz from the start.
After that, it becomes a race to see who can build the strongest tribe fastest, and launch the Armageddon power that gathers everyone’s people and buildings for one final showdown. The stylus controls are good, but the touch screen shows a stylized version of the level with everything reduced to ugly lines and icons. You’ll never have time to admire the buildings and people on the top screen. We’d much rather have seen a straight conversion of the original.
Nov 24, 2008