Dr. Blob's Organism Review
Developer: Digital Eel
Official Site: digital-eel.com/organism/
Reviewed on PC
System Requirements: Pentium II 350 MHz, 64 MB RAM, OpenGL 1.1 compatible video card
Dr. Blob is rumored to be indulging his odd affection for giant protozoans, and is brewing up giant, vicious variants of the normally tiny creatures in his mystery kitchen.
Dr. Blob's Organism takes the simple concept of the 1980 coin-op game Tempest, and explores it within a not-so-safe, laboratory environment. So if you've been looking for gameplay that explores the Tempest paradigm and takes it in new directions, you will enjoy Dr. Blob's Organism. Likewise, if you're the sort of lab technician who likes to anthropomorphize your eukaryotes, ascribing to them sinister intentions, you're likely to be entertained by this game.
In the twenty levels of Dr. Blob's Organism, you are forced to deal with single-celled organisms that have let power go to their nuclei, and are trying to escape from the petri dishes that spawned them. To stop these creatures, you control devices to zap each organism, rupturing its cell wall and preventing its spread. Your tiny weapons are always in a fixed position at the edge of the dish, firing through its center, but you can rotate the petri dish to bring vulnerable or threatening portions of the organism(s) into the line of fire. As one might guess, there are a variety of power-ups available, including some that freeze the creature, double your firepower, increase your rate of fire, or even split your gun into up to three guns at evenly spaced locations around the dish. If the organism escapes, it can do damage to you, and that lost health can be recovered by collecting other power-ups.
While you will see stable patterns emerge from the protoplasm, this is not John Conway's Life (although he is cited as Dr. Blob's inspiration). As such, you will want to keep the organism from creating pseudopods or stable, traveling offshoots that can move to the edge of the dish and hurt you. These creatures also differ from the basic constructs of Life in that they have powers, including a force field that renders them invulnerable, an angry and hyperactive frenzy, and even the ability to divide. At level ten (out of twenty) you begin to get multiple organisms, meaning that you have to destroy multiple nuclei. You will learn to fear the word "Mitosis!" – when it splashes across the screen, the cells divide, and suddenly there are two organisms to exterminate, where once there was only one. Very late in the game, the organisms even start hurling out spoors that travel directly to the edge of the dish to deal damage.
There are three difficulty settings, but until you get used to the gyroscopic motion of the game, you may want to try things out on the "mellow" setting before moving to an intermediate difficulty. After a few levels, the action is so frantic that it seems like the only way to kill a creature is to detonate an explosive type of power-up near a nucleus, rupturing it and eliminating it from the petri dish (unless it divides, spawning more creatures). The frenzied action is simple fun, engrossing enough (in a coin-op arcade way) that you may find yourself cursing the scientist that gave these creatures life, all the while curious what the next one will do. At $10, the full game is a worthwhile purchase, but you can try the demo to get a feel for the action. Budding biologists and arcade gamers alike will find something entertaining and amusing in Dr. Blob's petri dish.