Galapagos makes a new(born) splash in industry

Galapagos: Mendel's Escape
Reviewed On
Available For
Very Hard

Imagine guiding a newborn baby through a deadly maze of lava pits, toxic clouds and spinning laser turrets. You can’t actually touch the child, but he has the capacity to learn from his mistakes. Such is the fun and often highly frustrating world of Anark Software’s Galapagos.

Players are charged with guiding a newly born metal bug named Mendel in his attempts to escape the evil workshop that created him. (The plot is a little thin but that’s not where this game’s strength is at.)

When Mendel is born his mind is as blank as a political candidate on the hot seat. But unlike politicians, Mendel has the capacity to learn from his mistakes. He is equipped with an artificial intelligence that fortunately transfers from a dying bug to its newly regenerated form. So if Mendel falls off a cliff to his doom, he is less likely to make the same mistake in the next life. It’s no journey of The Beagle, but the evolution of subsequent Mendels is interesting to experience.

Players don’t actually control Mendel. Once he learns how to walk, he begins to explore his surroundings on his own. Players follow along via a camera that swoops around and stays close-by. You can coax Mendel in a direction by clicking on shield barriers or moving obstacles out of his way. But just clearing a path is no guarantee that Mendel will follow. Sometimes the stubborn bug will decide to walk in circles or go the wrong way. Letting him get killed is at times the only way to teach him which way is correct. But be warned, kill him too much and he will become neurotic and refuse to move at all or run off in random directions trying to escape your clutches. Darn prima donna bugs.

Some people will revel in the chance to build a symbiotic relationship with a new life form, becoming a teacher and surrogate parent. Others will curse the monitor as Mendel defies logic and trumps off in his own direction against your will. In any case, the artificial intelligence of this little bug could be a road map of what’s to come. It’s a possible evolution revolution.

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