[Note: This article was quoted in the Maxis, Inc. product catalog.]

Unnatural Selection by Maxis
by Mariva H. Aviram
December 20, 1993
volume 15
number 51
page 84

Maxis, well known for its SimCity games, has unleashed a DOS simulation game of a different breed. Unnatural Selection focuses on genetic engineering, letting you design and breed creatures in a militaristic scenario.

In the Maxis tradition of unique scientific experimentation with powerful user control over variables, the Unnatural Selection genetic breeding lab is equipped with a sophisticated computer called DigiLife AL-2000, which aids you in creating the monsters of war. These creatures, called Theroids, are not particularly intelligent but are strong, fast, and violent. There are three types of Theroids: Zips, which are fast; Slugs, which slime around displaying their endurance and stamina; and Hulks, which are very strong and, as you might guess, green in color.

You breed and raise these Theroids in the experimental breeding lab, controlling their physical attributes, fighting behavior, and mating urges. In addition, environmental settings, such as amount and type of food, level of genetic mutation permitted, and available cage space, give you even more control over the lab. The laboratory has a science fiction feel to it with its plethora of buttons, dials, tubes, and other devices, most of which provide information in a female voice.

As in most Maxis games, the main menu provides two choices: experimental mode and actual game playing. You can breed strong creatures in the experimental mode by eliminating weaker and virus-infected Theroids. The engineered creatures are saved in a file and later included in a game.

The game mode first displays a limited movie of the game's premise. A cast of characters, plot, and both written and verbal material reveal the tired futuristic war story: How can we get rid of mistakenly bred creatures by using other genetically superior engineered creatures? The unwanted creatures have been left on an island (of your choosing), and you must conquer the existing dangerous creatures with similarly dangerous creatures of your own making.

Different views let you display the beasts -- by looking down into their pens and up close at their faces. The screen animation that shows the close-up views of the creatures is amusing and entertaining.

Although I was warned about the violence of this game, the Theroids are so colorful, noisy, and silly looking that I couldn't take them seriously even when they were ripping each other's heads off. Such movies as Jurassic Park seem much more horrifying than the antics of these cartoonish beasts.

You may feel quite powerful while controlling this gadget infested lab, but the game gets old rather quickly. With so many controls and variables, Unnatural Selection is also confusing to figure out. The users' manual is only somewhat helpful. In an effort to be sharp and witty, Maxis left out a few important details.

Personally, I find the premise of genetically engineered warfare disturbing. However, Unnatural Selection ($49.95) will have great appeal for those who have always wanted to play the part of a mad scientist.

Company: Maxis
Orinda, California
(800) 54- MAXIS
(510) 254-9700
fax (510) 253-3736