There was a time when most games were about highscores and staving off the inevitable “game over”. It’s a wonderful thing that gaming has grown to bear the variety and depth that it now does, but this means many games now have, at least, some barrier of entry. Many games are best experienced when one has the time to really immerse themselves. So what about when you’re waiting for a friend to finish getting ready to go out? Maybe you’re waiting for your coffee order. Who knows how long you have? Those are when a highscore chase can shine, but it’s by no means the only time. Viral Survival is all about highscore, and while it may lack in depth, it can sink some hooks into you.
Viral Survival is a WiiWare action dodge-’em-up, that seems to take inspiration from the resurgence in popularity of arena shooters like Robotron: 2084 and Geometry Wars. The core game mechanics are quite simple, you are a free-moving “DNA” that must avoid infection by three virus types with differing behavior. Infection means game over. Variety comes in the form of five different game modes that add to the core gameplay. Normal mode involves gathering friendly DNA to create a tail that follows you. You must protect yourself and the tail from the ever-increasing number of viruses and eliminate viruses, when possible, through the use of powerups. The Z or A button will allow you to jump and avoid enemies. Survive as long as possible and increase the size of your tail and your highscore will benefit greatly.
Progessive mode is basically Normal mode with a more cumbersome control scheme. Zoom 128 mode zooms the camera close, removes the tail growth, and challenges you to collect 128 DNA as quickly as possible without running into a virus due to nearsightedness. Amusingly named, Horde mode is perhaps my favorite mode after Normal mode. Horde mode lacks the tail growth and friendly DNA, but introduces vaccine bombs that, after destroying viruses, can be reactivated repeatedly, potentially resulting in huge score multipliers. Lastly, Shooter mode is just like it sounds. You are a lone DNA that is constantly shooting at encroaching viruses. Occasionally, power-ups appear that allow you to shoot in all directions and clear out huge amounts of viruses. Most of the modes also include a mechanic that allows you to gain extra points from touching virus corpses, making for more reason to tread a lot of ground.
Ultimately, I was hoping for a little bit more depth. An additional mode that could somehow combine the various mechanics from the other modes, perhaps randomly, could have helped. Each individual mode seems a little too simple, but intermixed, they might have held me more tightly.
Viral Survival’s main problem is its platform. While I must give the developers credit for managing to implement worldwide online leaderboards in a Wii game, quick bite-sized games, like this, are much better suited to portable or mobile devices. The similar Tilt to Live for iPhone/Touch, is much more at-home on a platform that one often turns to when they have a moment to kill. Tilt to Live is a better game, as well, due in part to its variety and frequent updates, which are near impossible on the Wii. It’s strange;Viral Survival was made by the same folks that made one of my all-time favorite iPhone games, Route Candle. Perhaps they should have stepped up their ad campaign, rather than changing platform.
At only 500 Nintendo points ($5 USD), Viral Survival is still a safe bet for anyone interested in a cute, quirky dodge-’em-up. If you have a iPhone/Touch, though, you can nab the superior, Tilt to Live, for even cheaper.