If you’re a fan of the Discovery channel it’s likely that at some point in the educational channel's existence you’ve watched a documentary about the ecosystem and perhaps enjoyed learning how a community of living organisms works in harmony and sometimes disharmony with our air, water and animals to create life on Earth. If you haven’t, or simply have no interest in the evolution of our planet, you’ll probably be immediately put off by the concept of PlayStation Vita’s latest app/micro-management simulation, Ecolibrium.
The good news is Ecolibrium is free to download and play, so it’s going to cost you nothing to find out which side of the fence you sit on. The developer makes money by encouraging those who hope to do very well in the game and rise up the leaderboard to purchase extra items from the store that can be used in-game. But, what’s it actually all about? Well…take a deep breath. If you make it past this next paragraph, Ecolibrium is probably worth checking out.
Ecolibrium is an eco-system creation game with the aim being to build a balanced environment with a variety of tools at your disposal. Starting off with a blank grassy canvas that represents the world, players have access to a laboratory, the hub from where you can clone creatures, fungi, artefacts and many others living and non-living organisms and items that will help balance the ecosystem. Each item has numerous properties; for example, a certain type of tree will need minerals and moisture to grow to produce vegetation that can be eaten by animals, while other plants will help them to flourish by giving off moisture and producing minerals.
Then you’ll want to clone herbivores to eat fruit and leaves and carnivores to feed on creatures lower down the food chain. It’s all very educational stuff, though initially a bit overwhelming as you go through the tutorials trying to suck up all the information and remember what you actually need to do to create a harmonious universe. It goes much deeper too. Animals reproduce and hunt so you constantly have to monitor their behaviour via ever-changing statistics which show you how often they breed and at what times they go on the prowl. Then there are items that you can use to create that balance, such as artificial fertilizers, gels and diffusers, which can slow down the metabolism of a creature.
Each item available has a list of attributes that should be taken into account to balance your ecosystem
You create this living, breathing world by accessing a laboratory, which is decked out with creatures, plants, trees and items such as Enzymes, which accelerate the genetic evolution of the creatures. Everything costs money to buy and you purchase items with ecopoints, which you gain through building your planet. It’s simply a case of selecting an item and then placing it within your new world. As your ecosystem builds, you can keep an eye on how well balanced it is via a series of icons which show you where your planet is lacking or where you’ve over-compensated. These icons initially show the balance of vegetation, minerals and hunters vs. prey (via numbers) and it’s up to you to create that perfect balance by selecting the right items for your world.
Indeed, Ecolibrium is all about creating a balanced earth that thrives, and by spending points wisely and placing down items that have the right attributes, the world grows and becomes even more difficult to manage. There’s a free-play mode where you can build your environment at your leisure, or a number of challenges to complete, such as having to stop herbivores from being overrun by carnivores, or having to achieve equilibrium of exactly 98 percent over the course of a day. Natural disasters kick in to keep you on your toes and provide new challenges as you progress and success is achieved by reacting to the ever-changing environment.
Clone creatures and organisisms is the laboratory. A clear layout and touchscreen control make this process intuitive
There’s initially a lot to take in as you soak up the tutorials, but the laboratory menu is well laid out and you can intuitively swipe through all the items and view their attributes before deciding what to purchase. Ecolibrium also makes good use of PS Vita’s features, allowing you to hold it up like a camera and rotate around your planet, or drag your finger across the front or rear screens to move around the environment and tap it to populate it with your chosen items.
As you slowly get to grips by what the game demands from you, things get more complicated/challenging with the introduction of reptiles, fish and birds and the items in the laboratory swell significantly, giving you an almost overwhelming amount of options to pick and choose from. In the initial stages, we found it was a case of guess-work to create that balance, but the further we progressed the more familiar we became with what was needed to make a harmonious planet; we felt we were even educated a little bit along the way.
Indeed, if you enjoy the planet and want to learn more about what makes it tick, and you get a kick from this type of challenging micro-management-style strategy game, then it’s certainly worth a look. There’s definitely nothing like Ecolibrium on PS Vita, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is solely going to depend on whether you care enough about the subject matter to give a crap.
-The Final Word-
Ecolibrium will appeal to a very niche audience, and while some gamers will probably enjoy spending many hours creating the perfectly balanced ecosystem, others will be more bored than a nun at a rave.