Game Review: Ecolibrium (PS Vita)

Ecolibrium PS Vita

Ecolibrium is a unique discovery app that is an eco friendly game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Ecolibrium is refreshing as it allows you to interact with animals in a more personal environment that is much more interactive than a zoo, as you are genuinely looking after the animals and attempting to provide them with the appropriate habitat and resources for them to thrive and live out their lives in a sustainable environment.

There are three single player game modes including the ecosystem; free mode; and challenges. The ecosystem is all about colonising ecosystems, which is achieved by a careful and quite delicate balancing act that you carry out while managing the levels of moisture; minerals; vegetation; water; and food stocks appropriately in order to reach the perfect 100% equilibrium that allows all of the animals and plants to live in perfect harmony. The free mode provides you with no time limitations with the only goal being to create your best and most functional ecosystem in order to achieve the highest potential amount of ecopoints, which are common amongst the ecosystems provided in free mode. The challenges game mode provides an optional set of additional special areas were you are given particular tasks to complete with the potential of earning various rewards that are presented in their own points counter called challenge points and the chance to unlock new creatures and evolutions of creatures.

The creatures are cloned alien animals that have been created in a laboratory, which must have taken a lot of imagination for the developers to design as while certain features may resemble particular wild animals such as tigers; the overall look and characteristics of each of the creatures are unlike anything walking the Earth today. The laboratory provides you with a rotating view of every animal with a detailed yet concise description of each animal with information including an overall profile of the animal such as the amount of legs; if it is a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore; how fast or slow the animal’s movement is; how it can escape from predators, alongside statistics regarding their properties; strength of resistance; length of regeneration; how often they reproduce; and how often they hunt. There is a natural evolution of creatures as they mature and reproduce periodically with a total of fifteen animals and between two to four evolutions of each animal. There are various plants, vegetation and fungi to balance the ecolibrium of the ecosystem that also have their own evolutions, while there are artefacts that can be added to the ecosystem to increase the rate of reproduction. The majority of the animals, plants, vegetation, fungi and artefacts are not immediately available, so they have to be unlocked as you progress through the game by completing various challenges, animals reproducing, maintaining a balanced ecosystem or even via the Near application and the in-game auction system.

In comparison to the similar free to play discovery app Travel Bug; Ecolibrium allows you to see the creatures and animals that you are giving life to in a much more active way as you have more control of their environment and it feels as though it is more of a personal experience because of that. Ecolibrium is a scientific game that educates people considerably about the life cycle, such as oxygen; the food chain; the difference between the eating habits of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores; reproduction amongst species; and much more besides.

The tutorials feature is rich in detail as is the help menu. The tutorials feature consists of seven tutorials that are dedicated to teaching you the ins and outs of the game with tutorials ranging from an explanation of the ecosystem view and laboratory, alongside a basic introduction to plants and fungi all the way through to an explanation of the special qualities of reptiles and an introduction to the photography mode with much more in between. The help menu is even more detailed with a total of 27 areas covered, such as the basics on getting started; how to navigate the screens; how to manage your resources, alongside various game concepts such as the food chain; hunting; reproduction; tokens; feeding; artefacts; discovering species; exile and removal of plants or fungi to balance out the ecosystem; in-game auctions; climate; natural disasters; photography mode; in-game shop; free mode; challenges; and online challenges. With all of that information covered by the tutorials and help menu; you will not be lacking any help in regards to figuring out how to play the game, so you should certainly have no problems finding your feet if you follow them carefully.

You can launch the Vita’s Near application at any given time to set any of your creatures free and into the wild for other players to collect and bring into their own ecosystems and vice versa as you can also collect creatures that have been released into the wild by other players.

The photography mode can be accessed at any given time and allows you to snap pictures of your ecosystem and the animals, plants and vegetation that inhabit it, so you can save them in the pictures folder of your Vita’s memory card or even share your pictures via your Facebook profile for the entire world to see.

The in-game auction system is an interesting feature as it provides a miniature eBay style area for players to sell and purchase various creatures and items for the trading of the in-game currency referred to as ecopoints. The auctions are spread across three menus with my auctions listing the items you are selling; my bids listing the bids you have already made on other players’ items; and auctions available listing all of the currently ongoing auctions. The menus clearly and concisely display a picture of the item; the number of bids that have been made for it, so you can see how popular the item is with other bidders; the current status of the auction in regards to whether the auction has finished or how long the auction has left to run; and the current highest bid of ecopoints, which you can compare against your own ecopoints total as displayed on the top right of the screen, so you know how many ecopoints you have left to realistically spend on auctioned items.

The microtransactions for purchasing booster packs to increase your current stock of resources results in you not having to wait while your resources replenish. The booster packs cost £0.40 for a silver box; £0.59 for a gold box; and £1.19 for a platinum box, although bronze boxes and 2,800 ecopoints are awarded for regularly returning to the game in the form of daily bonuses, which will certainly help you along in regards to managing your resources. However, the microtransactions do hold the game back as it will disadvantage you if you want to keep on playing the game for free in which case you will have to wait a few hours while your resources are replenished or if you are playing it on a wi-fi Vita model without being within range of a wi-fi hotspot as you will need access to the PlayStation Store to purchase the booster packs to continue playing once you have momentarily exhausted your resources, so this becomes a problem unless you own a 3G Vita model.

The controls are well mapped and are shared between the left and right analogue sticks, face buttons and the touch screen. The face button controls consist of pressing triangle to display the life forms that are currently living within the habitat; holding square to display a breakdown of the ecosystem’s ecolibrium; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to manoeuvre the camera angle around the ecosystem; select to enter photography mode; and start to pause the game and view the various options or return to the world map screen. The touch screen controls consist of tapping the animals icon to the top left of the screen to display the life forms that are currently living within the habitat and the star icon to the top right of the screen to display all of the creatures, animals and life forms, alongside all of their evolutions that are available and how to unlock those who are not currently available to inhabit the ecosystem. All of the important in-game menus during gameplay can be navigated via swiping across the touch screen; changing the direction of the left or right analogue sticks; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad; and using the face buttons.

The graphics would be considered to have more of a simulation style to them, except they are alien animals, rather than those that you would expect to see in a visit to your local zoo. The graphics are pretty good with swaying foliage, animals inspecting their surrounding environments, moving cloud cover and rock formations in the distance.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the world map and online leaderboards and also includes support for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad and face buttons, alongside support for the rear touch pad, while rotating the Earth on the world map screen. The background of the menu screens focuses upon the Earth with moving cloud patterns in the foreground and the universe surrounding it, which can be rotated to look around more of the scenery of Earth and the universe.

There is no music to be heard during gameplay, so the audio mostly consists of ambient sound effects from a habitat that contains various species of animals, bugs and life forms, such as growls from carnivores; tweeting from birds and various sounds from different types and evolutions of creatures as you progress through the game.

The trophy list includes twelve trophies with seven bronze trophies, four silver trophies and one gold trophy. You may not necessarily find the trophies easy due to the endurance required to earn some of them. Three of the easier trophies include the Step by step bronze trophy for completing all of the tutorials; the Gardener bronze trophy for planting ten plants or fungi; and the Farmer bronze trophy for adding ten creatures. The trophies are spread through the Ecolibrium’s content, rather than just being focused on a particular area of the game, such as the Tough guy silver trophy for creating a level ten alpha creature; the Collector silver trophy for collecting twenty different tokens; the Coloniser silver trophy for colonising three ecosystems in free mode; and much more besides demonstrating the diversity within the trophy list. Two of the harder trophies are the Against wind and tide silver trophy for completing ecosystems one, two and three by completing all of the twelve challenges and the Competitive spirit gold trophy for finishing among the top 100 in an online challenge. I would estimate depending upon your perseverance and endurance for taking care of your animals and their habitats everyday and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around two to three months to 100% the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels with one being applied to each of the challenges including easy difficulty; medium difficulty; and hard difficulty, but the difficulty will always naturally increase as you add more creatures to the habitat as you will have to attempt to make sure that the levels of moisture; minerals; vegetation; water; and food stocks are appropriate for the entire habitat including the latest creatures to have been introduced to the habitat.

There is a full online component including online challenges and online leaderboards. The online challenges task you with having the best productive ecosystem for your animals to roam and rewarding the players that perform the best with various prizes. The online leaderboards focuses on my ranking; my country; my friends; best in the world; and online challenge ranking categories with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and the amount of ecopoints or high scores.

The replayability of Ecolibrium is provided from the premise of the game as you are effectively assessing the health of the animals you have created and attempting to guarantee their survival. There is a great deal of content for a free to download game with lots of game modes, such as ecosystems; challenges; and free mode gameplay, alongside a full online component comprising of online challenges and online leaderboards with various other areas such as in-game auctions and an in-game shop that are all guaranteed to collectively keep you occupied for many hours.

Overall, there really aren’t many games available that have Ecolibrium’s premise and those that do have a similar premise are superseded by Ecolibrium’s superb expansive content, so based upon that it is easy to recommend, especially considering it is free to download. If you are a fan of Tamagotchi or The Sims games or like to look after pets or animals, then Ecolibrium is definitely for you. This is a fun game with the only negative point being the potential drawn out wait that you may have to endure while you are waiting for your resources to replenish so you can continue playing the game for free, rather than purchasing booster packs via microtransactions. Despite that you still definitely need to check out Ecolibrium as it may just be Vita’s best and most engaging free to play game yet.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Ecolibrium
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (Online Challenges)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 350Mb (Version 1.03)

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