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Who says you need guns and tanks—or even arms and legs that bend—to wage war? Real-time strategy game Multiwinia puts you in command of an army of 2D stick figures called Multiwinians, hell-bent on destroying enemy factions in six multiplayer-style game modes (which can also be played alone) across a unique vector-graphics landscape.
Domination mode has you wiping out your enemy by taking over all the spawn points, and in King of the Hill mode, you’re fighting to hold certain areas for the longest amount of time. The object of Capture the Statue mode is to drag giant statues that appear around the game world back to your home base. Assault mode divides your soldiers into attack and defense teams, for conquering the enemy position while defending your own.
Then things get tougher: Blitzkrieg mode’s goal is to capture other teams’ flags (a complex process involving building and breaking links), again while defending yours. And Rocket Riot mode’s three-part goal is to control solar panels to fuel your rocket, then load your people inside, and defend the rocket until it can launch. Each mode can be played on a number of game boards (40-plus in all); some boards are for two teams and others have up to four teams going at it.
Your job is to devise an overall strategy for success and then set up the mechanisms to achieve it. You start each game with a spawn point that burps out new Multiwinians. You can select a group of them and send them to another location (they’ll take over additional spawn points or capture king-of-the-hill areas automatically once you send them there), or you can promote an officer to point all nearby Multiwinians in one direction. These beings are basically lemmings, so if you send them over a cliff, they’ll just keep marching into the abyss, but you’ll soon get the hang of how to direct them. (The basic tutorial is a must, but we had problems completing the advanced tutorial’s objectives in order, although it still taught us some of the game’s finer points.)
The Multiwinians fire their lasers at nearby enemies, and you can have them march in formation for extra strength. Crate drops offer power-ups, but you’ve got to send some Multiwinians out to fetch the crates first. Power-ups include gun turrets, napalm strikes, speed boosts, and even giant ants to sic on your enemies. And some game boards feature advanced equipment, such as satellite dishes that beam your men across chasms or armored vehicles for quickly moving them around.
And while you can play against the computer, with easy, normal, or hard settings, multiplayer is the whole point. (Multiwinia is named for Darwinia, a single-player title from 2005 that uses the same game engine and stick figure characters.) In fact, the single-player game is really here just to teach you the game mechanics, so you can battle your friends online. It’s a cinch to host or join games, and you can even play against Windows users—we experienced no problems or stuttering on our high-speed connection, and the in-game chat works well too, even though we were too focused to pay much attention to it.