How stupid is it that it took a scientist like Charles Darwin to come up with the ultra-common sense theory of Natural Selection? Was it really so tough to guess that, if you have an alligator with teeth and another alligator with no teeth, the first one is going to get the steak and have babies and the other is going to die? Unfortunately, it’s similarly tough to believe that The Adventures of Darwin, a squad-based action title that has you commanding a small army of monkeys trying to evolve into cavemen, is just now coming out – it’s not a horrid game, but it should have hit stores years ago.
You are Darwin, a monkey on a quest to discover things and evolve and hopefully keep a nightmare you had about your monkey village being destroyed from coming true. You do this by wandering around with a small army of buddies, killing and eating any animals you see and dragging anything you find that isn’t alive – especially metal, rocks, and wood – back to your village.
Over time, as you explore more areas and bring back more and more stuff, your village and its people evolve. You obtain spears, arrows, and axes, gain more and more monkey men for your army, learn new marching formations, kill bigger and bigger enemies, and… that’s about it.
The biggest problem is that there’s just nothing new or even especially well made here. There are only five levels, and although they’re quite large, they’re also plain, sparse and undecorated, with items randomly shotgunned around like marbles inside a chalk circle. It’s almost merciful that every camera view is too far away to give you a good look at your plainly rendered surroundings.
Controls are gimped because Darwin can’t tell his team where to go. They follow blindly – he can only tell them to pick up an item he’s touching or attack something within his weapon range (which is hella short with spears or axes). And we do mean “blindly” - your little ape friends stumble around like drunken sailors wearing two eye patches. Even in the safest formation (a single-file line) they’re far too likely to waltz off the edge of a cliff, get stuck on scenery or, worst of all, become pinned between an item and the jaws of an enemy. Speaking of which, most enemies are more easily outrun than killed because they don’t pursue well. If you do fight, it’s almost impossible to guess if a given attack is going to do no damage or kill a whole handful of your troops.
If you’ve ever played the captivating Pikmin titles on GameCube, you’ve seen this exact kind of game done infinitely better in every single way – way cuter, clearer goals, more unit variety, vastly superior controls, pathfinding and graphics, etc. But Pikmin came out in 2001. The Adventures of Darwin took some six years to come out worse in every way. It’s not unplayable, but Charles Darwin himself would tell you: in today’s world, a game this dated is an evolutionary dead end.