Version Reviewed: 1.2
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It's rare to see a sedate, slow-paced game on the App Store. Most games are of the finger-twitch variety, with gameplay divvied up into quick, bite-sized snacks. Gene Pool definitely falls into the former category. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but Gene Pool won't keep you entertained forever. Still, if you're aiming for a calming experience, it's worth a look.
The game takes place in the titular "gene pool," in which little blobs (the "genes") are floating. In order to keep your organism healthy, you have to reduce the amount of genes. Now, the scientific motif here is rather suspect (I don't think you want to be deleting genes to keep yourself healthy), but that's not really important. More important is understanding how the heck to combine the genes in the first place. You control the genes by touching one and then sliding your finger back, and like a rubber band, it snaps in the opposite direction when you let go. Once it hits a wall, it becomes energized for a little while; only energized genes can combine.
There's more to it than just bouncing the blobs around, though. For one, you have to be careful—bounce an engorged gene into a different color, and it'll split. Viruses also make appearances, and will try to split big genes. Thankfully, antivirus particles can be slammed into viruses to destroy them. Finally, you'll need to keep up the pace, at least a little bit—while the game is still a calm one, if you don't merge genes quickly enough, the background will shift from a soothing blue-green to a warning orange, and if you take too long, the organism dies.
The graphics and audio are all of the "soothing, Zen-like" type. The art is easy on the eyes, and the music is easy on the ears. Autosave is present, and you can play your own music by going to the lock screen and double-clicking the Home button.
All of this combines to create a relatively slow-paced game. Gene Pool is fun at first, and some will no doubt appreciate the simple, relaxing gameplay. For me, however, Gene Pool just didn't have that addictive quality, and I think that might be due to its repetitive nature. There's no real strategy needed, just a bit of skill when it comes to predicting rebounds, and even when you're about to die, there's no added sense of urgency. The achievements would be a good touch and go a long way towards enhancing replay value, but the included system, Weave Connect, is a weird one. Aggravatingly enough, I can never get it to load, and having to register for yet another network is irritating. Gene Pool would have been better off using OpenFeint.
That's not to say that Gene Pool isn't without its merits. It's just what you make of it, and I prefer my "relaxing" games to be of the puzzle variety. If the idea appeals to you, go on: give it a try. Gene Pool is as fun as you make it.