Viral Survival Review
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Fun with viruses that doesn't involve Mario or vomiting
Viral Survival is a compilation of five single-player arcade games with a loose petri dish theme tying them together. In each game you control a little chunk of DNA (that looks an awful lot like a magnifying glass) as you zip, wind, shoot and jump your way to a top score, which is then automatically uploaded to online leaderboards.
Movement is mostly relegated to the analogue stick (apart from jump and zoom), and you're good to go with either a Nunchuk, Classic Controller or GameCube pad across the five modes. Turning off rumble might be a good idea whatever you choose, as in some games there'll be so much going on that the controller won't stop shaking.
Normal is a variant of the game Snake where you move your little DNA dude around and add other DNA dudes to your strand, and if an enemy bops into your tail then those strands are cut loose (bonus points if you snag them again). Progressive is a slightly different take on Normal in that your strand is in constant motion forward; you can steer and boost forward (which gives bonus points) but is otherwise the same. Zoom128 is exactly what it sounds like: the camera is zoomed up close to the playing field as you try to pick up 128 stray DNA strands. Horde has you running around blowing up meanies with the homing missiles littered about; each successful kill adds a multiplier to that specific missile, which respawns in the spot it offed an enemy. Finally, Shooter straps a pill gun to your front and throws deadly powerups into the fray in order to shoot as many of the ever-spawning enemies as possible.
Some of these modes are better than others (Shooter is this reviewer's personal favorite, with Progressive found to be the least enjoyable), but they're varied and fun enough, if a bit simplistic, for virtually anyone to find something enjoyable. There are even a handful of achievements to unlock across the games. All of this amounts to quite a bit to do, especially if your competitive nature kicks into gear thanks to the tight integration of online leaderboards. Plastered on the menu select for each game is your current top score and online ranking, and after each game your score is submitted and recorded if it's higher than your previous best, making it easy to fall into the one-more-go trap.
While the online leaderboard setup is commendable, score tracking still lags in a few places. For one, Viral Survival doesn't track your local best scores other than your top one. We're not sure why exactly, and it isn't a huge loss, but it would have been nice to see a few more of your top scores saved. It's also surprising that, with such emphasis on uploading your score for the world to see, there's no way to keep track of your friends' top scores within the game. You'll just have to ask, we suppose.
It's not the best-looking game in the lab of WiiWare, with its simple and chunky 2D sprites and inexplicable heavy use of neons and orange, but the visuals get the job done and don't confuse when things get really busy. The soundtrack is loaded with inoffensive action music and chirpy sound effects that don't particularly stand out. This is both good and bad — it's not grating so as to necessitate muting the game, but it's all largely forgettable.
Viral Survival does pretty much exactly what you would expect from a high score game on WiiWare, but refreshingly the games are actually kind of fun. It's not the deepest of experiences but it's an enjoyable one, and the welcome integration of online leaderboards might spur your competitive spirit and sustain your interest for longer than they otherwise might. For cheap and fast arcade thrills, it's a pretty good deal at 500 Points.