In today's world of beefed-up fighting online games with extravagant characters and ridiculously-complex moves, it's nice to see an homage to the simplest, most primitive form of combat there is... Microbe Kombat!
You're a weakly little microorganism in a big world (a Petri dish?) filled with other microbes and bacteria, and it's survival of the fittest in there. Forget about chucking "Hadoken!" fireballs at your opponents or giving them the old "Roundhouse-to-Dragon Uppercut" routine. No, grasshopper—this is Darwinian fighting style at its most primeval. Binding to proteins, self-replication through division and eating other microbes... these are your signature moves.
Obviously, your goal as a microbe is to grow and survive. But don't let that premise fool you into thinking this is a slow-paced simulation. It's an action game at its core, with a little bit of puzzle/strategy thrown in to make things a bit more interesting. A variation of the classic "big fish eats smaller fish" game mechanic, you begin your microbe life small as can be, "eating" protein (and other microbes) to get larger. Control your microbe with the mouse; it will simply follow your cursor around the screen, consuming protein and microbes it comes in contact with.
You win when you've eaten all enemy microbes in each level. But there's a catch: your rival microbes can eat you if they get big enough, which they'll try to do by gobbling up proteins before you can reach them first. Things get even more competitive when your rival microbes begin dividing; they're small at first, but all it takes is a little time before they get big enough to divide again, exponentially ganging up on you.
Fear not, because you have this ability as well, so you can divide and try to match the enemy's muscle. Your ally microbes will seek out protein on their own while avoiding bigger enemies at the same time. You're not without a few other abilities as well, like temporary boosts of speed, size or dynamically switching control to any of your allies. You even have some neat tricks like sacrificing one of your allies to explode and destroy nearby enemies. All these abilities and power-ups are gained by eating proteins. Up to six of them will stack as icons on the right side of the screen. You can use them by clicking the icons with your mouse, or pushing the corresponding  through  as hotkeys. I recommend the latter, since your mouse cursor is used to guide your microbe. You can pause the game by pushing [P], and configure the hotkeys in the settings menu.
Analysis: My biggest issue with this game is the sheer difficulty in eating other microbes, from a control mechanic standpoint. You can't just pass over smaller microbes to eat them like you can with proteins. To consume an enemy microbe, you need to be following it from behind, get close enough until your microbe opens its mouth, and hope the enemy didn't move away too quickly before you chomp down. I realize the game probably would have been too easy if you just had to touch a smaller microbe to eat it, but the mechanic as-is needs improvement. Unless the developers fix this, the best technique I can recommend is to give enemy microbes a bit of "lead" when pursuing them. For example, position your cursor ahead of them a bit, trying to mimic their path as your microbe comes up from behind.
Other than this annoying control issue, Microbe Kombat is a nice little top-down game reminiscent of flOw, but only in the aesthetic and conceptual sense. This game has a strategy that's unique and engaging, allowing you to choose between an aggressive "hit-and-run" approach and the more defensive "strength in numbers" tactic. The various abilities at your disposal add even more depth to the game's strategy, as do the infectious (and immune) organisms in later levels. Coupled with the ambient music soundtrack and elegant, minimalistic graphics, it's a fun and stylish little game that almost anyone can enjoy.
Review by Jay is Games
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