When I was about 9, my parents bought me & my brother an amazing Christmas present: our first computer, an Amiga! After lots of fighting over who would get to play on it first, I finally got to try one of the games that came with it, which was Populous. At first I found the game quite diffcult to understand, & the instruction manual confusing, but I later came back to the game as a teenager & started to find it quite addictive, even though I still didn't feel like I quite understood all the aspects of gameplay.
After getting my Nintendo DS last Christmas, I was very pleased to discover there was a DS version of Populous & was very excited about trying it as I knew it would bring back memories of the old Amiga. I also hoped the instructions would be a bit clearer so I could enjoy the game to the full!
Well, I'm happy to say that the DS version is just as addictive as the original Populous, if not more so, & it has the added advantage of being much easier to understand! The game claims to be suitable for ages 7+, which I would agree with as there's a clear instruction booklet as well as comprehensive tutorial levels which you go through at the beginning of the game. I think teenagers would probably enjoy it more than younger children though as the later levels can require quite complex strategies.
In Populous, you play a god in charge of a population of worshipers. In each level, your worshipers need to beat another set of worshipers that are controlled by a demon. You can play as (and against) one of 5 different types of god (or demon): earth, water, fire, wind or harvest. Each god has different strengths & can perform different miracles to help the worshipers along.
In each level, you're presented with a 'world map' on which the gameplay takes place (the whole map is shown on the top screen, whilst a magnified section is shown on the touch screen; you can move around the map using the arrow keys or stylus). The map is usually made up of mostly land with some water, & the land will be in quite a messy state with hills, mountains, rocks, pools and so on. First you need to create flattened areas of land so your worshipers can build houses & therefore multiply. You raise & lower sections of land by dragging them with the stylus. Once your population starts multiplying, you can start figuring out a strategy to beat the enemy worshipers (who usually start off over on the opposite side of the map). Strategies can include telling your worshipers to fight any enemy they come across, and/or performing miracles to hinder or kill the enemy population (for example, the water god can create a tidal wave, or the fire god can create a volcano).
The main mode is the 'Challenge' mode, meaning you work through different levels of increasing difficulty. The more levels you complete, the more gods you unlock to be able to play as. I always play in this mode, however you can also choose 'Free Play' (where you customise the level yourself) or 'Versus' (where you can play a level against a friend via a wireless connection).
A nice extra touch when compared to the original game is that this version has lots of different styles for the world maps, e.g. the theme could be snow, horror (worshipers look like zombies), fairytale (houses look like fairytale castles), outer space etc. Each theme also affects the gameplay, e.g. in the Persian theme the worshipers are on magic carpets so they can't drown in water like on most levels.
As I said earlier, this game can be quite addictive, & levels can potentially last quite a long time - you can save at any point, but once you start playing it's hard to tear yourself away in the middle of a level! I'd say most levels last 20 minutes at least. It's very satisfying when you manage to beat the enemy, especially as whether or not you win is based on a strategy that you've developed over 20 minutes or more. The difficulty of the levels progresses at a very good rate - the first ones aren't so easy as to be boring, & the later ones feel challenging rather than frustrating (although I haven't got quite to the end yet; I bet the last few are really difficult!). There are 40 levels altogether which means this game will entertain for plenty of time! Apparently there are also extra-hard bonus levels to be unlocked once the other 40 have been beaten.
The gameplay can become slightly repetitive, especially if you get into the habit of using the same god in most levels & a similar strategy; however the levels are varied enough that it doesn't get boring & you can always choose to play as a different god or to vary your strategies.
The graphics are quite basic but this is a good thing as it doesn't distract you from the gameplay, & also brings back fond memories of the original Populous!
There is also one mini-game included, called Warrior Hunt, where there are lots of different worshipers wandering around on the map, & you have to click on the exact ones that match the picture shown on the top screen - it's really fun! Sort of like Where's Wally.
I would definitely recommend this game as it's fun, requires you to think about a strategy, & has many hours of gameplay.
This review is for the Nintendo DS game, Populous, developed and published by Electronic Arts. The game is a god game, based on the old Amiga game.
In Populous, you are a deity and have land where you need to build properties and increase the number of followers, in order for you to be able to defeat another community on the same land. You can also use your powers to cause damage, such as earthquakes and flatten land, to slow down your opponents.
The controls are very comfortable to use, primarily using the stylus and touch screen to be able to flatten land and use other functions. These work well, and the d-pad is used to navigate through the menus and other options. Some considerable thought and effort has been put into these, and it works well.
There are a total of fifty levels to work through, so it will take you some time to work through each of the games. There's a tutorial at the start to get you into the game, but many of the levels can take over half an hour to play. The levels vary from old fashioned to some almost surreal level designs, which does keep the interest up. There's also a sandbox mode, so that you can play the game to your own requirements.
The two screens of the DS do suit this game, and the top screen contains the overview of the land, whilst the bottom screen is for the close-up and editing of your land. This works quite well, and although there is a lot of information to display on the bottom screen, it doesn't look too cluttered.
The graphics are fine, quite clear, and the isometric view which was once revolutionary, is sufficient for this console, but does appear dated. There is limited background music, but the sound effects are good, and these do add atmosphere to the game.
I remember playing this game for hours when it came out for the Amiga, scarily twenty years ago. It was innovative and had shed loads of game play, and it was incredibly addictive where you continually wanted to play one more level. This version, despite some humorous extra levels, doesn't maintain the same level of interest, and although fun to fill in a few minutes of time, doesn't have the same addictive value.
The game has a multi-player option, so you can play with up to three other players. This is a great option, and if you can find other players to play this game with you, then this is fun, and adds greatly to the long-term interest in the game.
The game's retail price is 29.99 pounds, but is currently available from Amazon for 11.85 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, these are at the time of writing available only slightly cheaper, for around ten pounds from sites such as eBay and Amazon. The game is rated as 7+, so is suitable for children of most ages.
In summary, this is a well presented game, and is fun to play along. However, for those of us who remember the original Commodore Amiga version, it's just not the same, and the game feels incredibly dated. However, the game is fun to play for short periods and if you can obtain the game cheaply, it's worth getting if you remember the original and want some nostalgia!