Idiosyncrasy in computer games is something that has been sadly lacking ever since the demise of so many great independent software houses. Now, in an industry which has developed to a stage where profit and loss are far more important than quality and individuality, games are almost all created by marketing men who have just licenses Rambo 77. Imagine my surprise, when I saw Eco, Ocean's first Amiga product.
Eco is, to quote the manual "a 3D vector simulation of a world populated by a large number of different organisms ranging from simple plant life to complex humanoids". At the beginning of every new game, the computer creates a random world and places you on it. At this point you are a simple insect-like creature. The object is to develop your simple insect into a more developed species. This is done by, well for want of a better word, bonking.
More of that later. A more immediate task is to find food for your insect to allow him to keep on trundling around looking for a suitable mate. This may sound like an ideal (if a little boring) life, but things are made considerably more difficult by the fact that as you are but a small insect, you represent a tasty morsel for other, larger and hungrier creatures who just happen to be wandering around the world. This means that much of your time is spent making sure that no predator is about to make you his Lean-Cuisine for the day.
Should you be lucky enough to find a suitable mate - and get near enough to it - you are then all set to reproduce. The screen then changes from the main 'scanning' screen to a gene designer screen (nothing to do with Levi's).
An enlarged version of the genetic code indicator found at the bottom of the scanning screen is shown, along with three different views of the offspring. You become the offspring as soon as you have reproduced so it is worth making sure you have altered the right bits. Changing the shape and size of your baby is done by altering its genes.
Some alterations make dramatic and immediately valuable changes, while others are more subtle, and sometimes totally useless.
Graphically, Eco is reminiscent of games such as Starglider, with excellently defined 3D vector graphics of a wide variety of characters and a display/operations panel taking up the lower half of the screen. The sound, too, is well up to scratch, with a couple of neat little ditties to start the game and adequate effects.
Eco is a game that will appeal to a huge variety of Amiga enthusiasts. Not only does it have elements of arcade games, but the whole concept is totally original, and thoroughly enjoyable.