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Multiwinia is a multi-player version of Darwinia, where players take command of digital stick figures and have them battle it out on vector graphic islands. Though the amount of control you have over them is limited—after all, they can’t even bend their arms—don’t mistake Multiwinia for a simplistic game; at first you’ll be running around the map just trying to beat the computer on Easy Mode.

Starting off with at least one base to generate new Darwinians (the glowing figures that make up your army), you have two basic commands you can give them via your “officers:“ Darwinians that you promote by right clicking them. Officers can make Darwinians around them follow a more-or-less straight line to a rally area…at which point they’ll just mill about unless you give them another command (promote another officer) or unless there’s an obvious task—like taking control of another generator or other objects in the game (more on that in a moment).

The other command you can give is to form a platoon of Darwinians and have your officer march them. Darwinians come equiped with little lasers that they can use to attack the other armies, but only if the enemy is in front of them: you’ll have to keep an eye on your formations to make sure they don’t get flanked. What’s more, they’ll advance to the point you tell them to and then stop dead, holding their ground even if they’re overwhelmed or if a goal is just ahead. Hey, they’re 2D; how smart do you expect them to be?

That, in essence, is Multiwinia: you set up systems that your soldiers will follow slavishly until you tell them to stop or they’re wiped out. Since you and your opponents all start with the same number of Darwinians, it’s your strategy that will determine who comes out on top. Do you go for the goal and ignore everything else, or let them wander away from the base while you attack their generator?

But that’s not really all there is to the game: Multiwinia features various modes of play: Domination (wipe our your enemy), King of the Hill (capture command points to win), Capture the Statue (drag huge monoliths back to your base for points), Assault (take or defend a position against oncoming hordes), Blitzkreig (destroy multiple enemies), and Rocket Riot (an interesting variation: protect an escape rocket in order to get out of the war zone). There are, of course, multiple maps to play each game on, and what would a video game be without Power Ups.

Every so often a crate will drop from the sky, and the first team to capture and “open” the box (and the more troops you have on the box, the faster it opens), will get a random bonus, all of which are particularly lethal: from simple troop upgrades to vehicles (such as the armored troop character) to another which harvests recently killed Darwinians and respawns them at your base. Some of them are particularly freaky; how’d you like to drop a giant hill of killer ants right next to your enemy’s generator, or a killer forest that attacks anyone who enters it. If that’s not enough for you, you might get to cause a meteor storm or a full-on nuclear strike.

Despite its simple graphic style—a throwback to the days of Tron right down to the “Recognizer”—Multiwinia’s simple, glowing shapes are oddly beautiful and downright hypnotic at times, making it all to easy to distract you from the explosive battles going on. As the name spells out, it’s a strictly multiplayer game, ditching the puzzle-combat structure of the original for straight-out battles. After practicing against the computer to learn just how complicated a real time strategy game made of stick men can be, you can play your friends online.

What Multiwinia lacks in graphic “wow” factor (unless you grew up in the era of WarGames), it more that makes up for as a fun RTS with a simple interface and surprisingly depth of play.

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