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    jp's Eco Creatures: Save the Forest (DS)

    [November 6, 2009 05:03:47 PM]
    Decided to move along to something else after hitting a brick wall for the last (2?) missions. My only consolation is that, going from comments I found online, it is a brick wall that apparently many other people have had trouble getting over. Sigh.
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    [August 26, 2009 10:21:43 PM]
    I've played at least three missions in which, for some reason or another, I was sure that I had triggered a bug that prevented me from successfully completing a mission. Isn't that strange? In each of the three cases I was wrong...but I only found out because I had the patience to keep on playing just in case.

    (1) Half of the area was blocked off by a large wall that I wasn't able to get over. Strangely, I was able to send some of the flying squirrels over the top and they fought some of the baddies on the other side. I tried building a rampart up to the wall, but that didn't work. Then I tried, by moving the camera around, to find a spot where I could get some of the flying squirrels back on my side (carrying a jumping platform). I essentially spent most of the time with this mission trying to get around what I assumed where technical problems with the game. Path finding issues with the squirrels, problems with the camera...and so on. In the end I discovered that I had to step on a switch in the far corner of the map. I had actually seen the switch earlier, but thought it was some random element and didn't think to actually step on it. Sigh.

    (2) In this mission I had to destroy a bunch of large barns that, every now and then, spawned a large cow-like monster. I amassed a huge army of squirrelly creatures and traipsed all over the place until I reached the last barn. This barn was different. It spawned two cow-creatures and respawned them as soon as they died! Huh? Also, I was able to walk through the barn (no collisions). Uh, oh. It took a LONG time but I was eventually able to destroy the barn using a lightning attach. I actually think there was a bug in this one, but I was saved by the lightning attack. Sigh.

    (3) This mission had another wall. Being wiser, I started to look around for a switch. I discovered it on top of an inaccessible platform. Hmm. Perhaps an event that would have made that switch accessible didn't trigger? Yeah. That must be it. It turns out I had to use one of my squirrel's abilities to carry me over to the spot where the button was. It hadn't really occurred to me that I could use the ability in that way.

    So, why is do I assume that something must be wrong with the game when I get stuck? I'm not sure. Maybe it's because the game's production values aren't that great. Maybe it's a game genre issue: I'm not expecting puzzles in what feels like an RTS game. Maybe I'm just too jaded and cocky to assume that it's my fault!
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    [August 24, 2009 09:04:37 PM]
    There aren't that many commercial games that openly promote positive values. This is something that Mary Flanagan's Values@Play has been quite vocal about with good reason. In fact, the only reason I picked this game up was because, from the cover art at least, it looked like a potentially interesting game (an RTS for the DS) with a strong ecological message. What I didn't know was how important the message was to the game and what role, if any, the game mechanics played in all of this.

    It turns out that the answer to those questions is somewhere in the middle. Gameplay essentially consists of summoning little mammals (squirrels and such) that are sent of to fight "evil" machines and robots that are invading and destroying the forest where the player-controlled character lives. The machines are being sent into the forest by "the kingdom" and while the first few missions deal with what the kingdom is doing with its waste (dumping it all in the forest) the latter ones deal with the kingdom's expansion into the forest in the name of development. The game isn't quite an RTS in the usual sense of the word (it's really hard to control the little mammals if you're expecting an RTS), but that isn't what I've been most excited about...

    Aesthetically, the game has the look and feel of a kid's game. Now, I may be misinterpreting the design, but the game is rated "E" for everyone. Anyways, given the apparent target audience, I've been amazed by some of the subtleties the game has in promoting proper care of the environment. Namely...

    (a) One of the creatures you control has the ability to plan special trees. Depending on the terrain in which you place a seed, a different type of tree will grow. In-game, planting trees can serve certain tactical reasons. However, they're not THAT useful and I've cleared many missions without planting anything. On the other hand, the game keeps track of each tree you plant in a special "reforestation" metric that is cumulative. Your goal is (apparently, since I haven't reached it yet) to achieve 100%. Each tree you plan gains you less than 1%, so this can take a while... So, your planting trees actually has an effect on the game that extends beyond each individual scenario, something that's quite unusual in this type of game though highly relevant and important in the gran scheme of things. Your positive (eco-friendly) decisions do matter!

    (b) The kingdom isn't portrayed as incredibly evil and nasty. They're not monstrous. In fact, the king and queen of the kingdom are children (presumably like the player). They're nice (well, perhaps a tad spoiled). They're not ugly, or mean or blatantly evil. So, why are they destroying the forest? Well, one of the first things you learn is that they're building candy factories! Is that so evil? Kids love candy, right? Later, you learn that they're expanding and growing into the kingdom in order to provide housing. There's a sublety there that I've enjoyed. It's so easy to demonize what's wrong, and this game is careful not to go down that easy route. The kingdom could have been militaristic and expansionist...but no, their needs and desires seem quite reasonable, which makes the message all the more powerful in my view. (it turns out, as far as I know, that the king and queen have also been misled by an advisor who is greedy and evil...I have to wait and see how it ends)
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    jp's Eco Creatures: Save the Forest (DS)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got frustrated

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 18 August, 2009

    GameLog closed on: Friday 6 November, 2009

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    An ecologically themed RTS? Is that possible? Yes, though it isn't quite an RTS as much as it is a "herd things around" game. It definitely works and the candy-sugar coating has more meat to it initially meets the eye. Perhaps more surprising is the incredible amount of extras and content that come bundled with it! (level editor, online play, etc.)

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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