Every now and again a really great game comes down the pipe that is fun, engaging and exciting to play. Sometimes, as was the case with Ivy the Kiwi?, it even gets released on multiple platforms to accommodate those players who might not have one or the other. Unfortunately, sometimes the games that get released feel like shamefully stripped down and uninspired ports of other games, and that is exactly the case with Gene Labs. Released this week on both DSiWare and WiiWare, gamers everywhere, whichever console they own, can feel the disappointment in this sub-mediocre game.
The idea is simple: there are bad viruses about, and it's your job to control a good virus to kill the bad ones. Once you start playing, however, you will quickly realise that this game is the exact same thing as the already released Castle Conqueror, except without the cute graphics, audio quality or production value.
There's a range of difficulties and available viruses, all with varying statistics determining their immune level, speed and division speed, and you can customise your stats to however you see fit. Immune level determines how strong your attacks are, speed is how quickly you will attack and division speed is how quickly your virus will create new ammunition. After choosing your virus, you are immediately dropped into the game. If you choose to start on any difficulty that is not easy, then you will receive absolutely no form of tutorial and will be left to figure everything out for yourself. If you do start out on easy then you will be given a full tutorial explaining the (admittedly simple) game, plus an option to skip the tutorial.
The goal in Gene Labs is very straightforward: kill all of the bad viruses before they kill you. The entire map is displayed on the bottom screen and shows your virus, the enemy virus and some uncontrolled and unexplained blue circle things that you or your enemy can take over. The top screen simply displays the level number and the amounts of antivirus solution that each virus has. Using the stylus, it is your job to frantically click and drag little bullets of antivirus solution over to your enemy to attack, or over to an uncontrolled circle to take control of it. The more viruses you have control over, the more firepower you have. One cool thing about this game is that when you attack you can chain your viruses together to send more antivirus solution over to an enemy all at once, but that's the only cool thing. The gameplay is repetitive and there are no chances to change or upgrade anything, so you're basically stuck doing the same thing over and over again.
The entire game is controlled using the stylus and touch screen, with the exception of the start button to open the pause menu while in-game. While the controls are very simple, they are not as tight as they could be. When a game is based entirely on frantic and fast-paced movements, it is infinitely important to have precise controls, which Gene Labs is disturbingly lacking.
The graphics are crisp, but nothing to be impressed by. Each virus is represented by a different colourful and silly-looking sprite, so it is easy to identify your own from the array of enemies. The antivirus solution that you attack with is represented by tiny balls that move from your virus to whichever you aim at. The balls are pretty small though, and can often blend into the background, making it sometimes hard to keep track of where your attacks are going, or if an enemy attack is going towards you. The audio, on the other hand, is almost non-existent, and when you do notice it, it is ridiculous. There's no music, but the game's “soundtrack” is full of the sounds of bubbles popping and water dripping and echoing, as though you were playing in some sort of sewer or cave. Sometimes, when you chain enough viruses together for an attack, you will hear a voice shout either “yodelayheehoo!” or “Geronimo!” It doesn't make much sense at all, and can get pretty annoying after hearing it repeated over and over again.
At 200 Points, Gene Labs is cheap, lengthy and an okay way to waste time, but that's about all it has going for it. The gameplay is repetitive, the controls aren't great and the quality in production is just not there. After so many of the same repeated actions without any story or motivation behind it, it's just not fun anymore. This game feels like the shell of something that could have been fun, but unfortunately got second-tier treatment instead.