Alpaca Evolution: a weird, quirky, and utterly addictive toy
Alpaca Evolution Review
Ranking: 4/5: a fun, addictive toy to mess around with, but definitely not for serious gamers.
Some games could only exist and survive on the iOs App Store. It's these kind of experiences that make me love my iPad and iPod--random, wacky games that hook you in with weird premises that could not exist anywhere else.
Alpaca Evolution is one of those games.
You are greeted when you first open the game to a sunny field full of alpacas. One of these alpacas has been somehow genetically mutated, and must eat, or "absorb"', the other alpacas to survive. And, naturally, you will help him achieve this.
Controls can be a game-breaker, so thankfully Alpaca Evolution controls fairly well. A simple tap will send you flying towards your target and knocking him (her!?) down. Another tap on the fallen alpaca will cause your mutation to absorb him. These taps are responsive, though the playing field can get a little chaotic when a lot of alpacas have spawned at once. You may find yourself randomly tapping the screen, hoping to kill something. But no harm done, really, because put simply, you probably will.
Now we get to the "evolution" part of the title. Whenever you absorb other alpacas, you recieve EXP, as visualized by a bar in the top left corner. When that bar is filled, your alpaca evolves.
Not only does he change shape, but he also gets stronger. Heavier. Later evolutions actually absorb quicker and move faster. But that's really not what you're going to be too focused on, because the shape changes are the first part of what take this game from, "meh, it's a game about canibalisitic alpacas." To "OMG THIS GAME IS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE." (Disclaimer: you probably won't say that until about halfway in.) At the beginning, the changes are pretty minor. But at the fourth evolution, you probably won't be able to surpress a smile or laugh. Fifth evolution? I was cracking up. Beyond that, it could be a laugh or a grimace. Some of these things are the stuff of your nightmares. Others, you might wonder what kind of mastermind would think of this stuff.
Another thing that comes with evolution is that you need more alpacas for the next evolution. If my memory suits me correctly, it goes from 40 to 600 with the later alpacas. It's a pretty gradual curve upwards though. It's aim seems fairly obvious: to inject some challenge into an otherwise challenge-less game. It didn't for me, but it wasn't tedious either. With every little scoot upward in some of the bigger experience bars, it builds tension and makes you really want to know what your alpaca will look like next.
At this point in the review, I know what you're thinking. It's something along the lines of "so you basically just eat alpacas and become stronger and weirder looking. That's it???!!!!!!!!"
No. That's not it. Because the biggest part of this game is about to be revealed to you.
This game is STORY DRIVEN. Head yourself down to the lower right hand corner to see what I mean. There's a star there, and if you give it a tap, you will open up the Alpacapedia, your handy resource on all things mutant alpacas. You can see exstensive information on your current mutation, as well as your past ones. It will also visualize a percentage of how far you are in the evolution process, as well as you're current round in the game.
But you'll find gold if you look past the stats and check out those little summaries at the bottom of your screen, only one or two paragraphs long. They will tell you more about your current mutation, drop hints about the next mutation, or just be generally hilarious. The writing is witty and the translation is honestly some of the best I've ever seen on a mobile game. Nothing facepalm inducing here. The game actually does have a story behind it---starting silly and lighthearted as the evolutions themselves and growing darker appropreately as the game rages onward.
At the end of the game you will make a choice. This choice will define what happens to your alpaca. The first round I played, I was only 66% completed when the game ended. To get every entry in your Alpacapedia, you'll have to complete multiple endings and meet certain requirements. Like I mentioned before, this game has rounds. Every time you beat it, it restarts you at mutation 1 in a new round. Past round 1, however, a new section will open up in your Alpacapedia featuring "rare mutations". To obtain these, you have to complete a certain amount of rounds in a certain way to even have the slightest chance of getting them. It adds a ton of replayablility to a game that may seem slightly repetitive to some.
And if you think that, you're right. This game IS repetitive. But it's EXTREMELY addictive. Alpacas spawn relatively slowly, but they also spawn in the background, even with the app off. It's the perfect game to come back to in those two seconds of free time when switching between games or even just when you're bored. Something about it makes me want to come back day after day to tap more alpacas.
So lets talk about visual style. For me, the graphics are a mixed bag. Obviously, they're not the most important part of the game, but the character sprites do look relatively good. The visual style is as wired and quirky as the rest of the game, but it works. Animation is practically nonexistent, but the frames they do have are really all that the game needs. The interface is very clean, featuring two buttons, a tiny banner ad (which there doesn't seem to be a way to get rid of,) an EXP bar and....that's it. The second button I mentioned is a twitter button that seems to let you be able to tweet your current evolution. I haven't tried it, not having a twitter and all, but considering how everything else works in the game, I can assure you that it's an option.
All-in-all, this is a great game, if it deserves to be called that. It's more like an addictive toy--fun to mess around with, but without a lot of hardcore depth to it. If you can take a little wackiness in your life, you'll love it. And plus, it's entirely free, so you have no reason not to check it out.