Gene Effect is an outstanding new action adventure title from Lightstorm3D. It takes many of the same themes and ideas of a game like Waking Mars, with a similar sense of discovery and wonderment, but executes on them in a different way. Things get pretty hectic as you pilot a simple mining vessel, called the Triton, through a cavernous alien world, collecting resources and relics while also uncovering a mystery or two. It's not a perfect game, with some pacing issues down the line, but it does so much right that you'll probably overlook the flaws.
Essentially, your greatest nemeses in this game are rocks. You’ll likely run into rocky, jagged walls, stalactites, and stalagmites while avoiding your secondary nemesis, highly defensive acid-spraying plant life. The controls are simple enough, with a virtual joystick for full range movement, plus a charge-up repulsor attack for getting rid of smaller rock formations. You'll also collect weapons from time to time, like lock-on missiles that let you clear dangerous formations. The weapons are more like a puzzle element than a combat one, and this game doesn't really have enemies. It's really just a game about a small team of dudes trying to survive a hostile alien environment, and it's done quite well.
The greatest strength of this game is probably the ability to create tension. Using a very effective soundtrack, the danger set pieces really absorb you into the story, having you root for the handful of dudes you never really see or hear in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, the way the levels are set up, you'll often run into dangerous segments after a long period of relative safety exploring a long, labyrinthine tunnel. If you can look past the few level design issues, there is a veritable feast of a game to dig into.
You'll especially like this game if you're a completionist. Every level has a speed trophy to earn, and you'll only earn the gold with immaculately precise movement. Most levels also have hidden relics to find among other secrets. Unlike Waking Mars, this game is strictly mission focused, and is much less about exploration and more about survival and speed. Still, the story is fairly well-written, and there is often a sense of awe as you uncover mysterious puzzles and ruins. The 3D visuals are also incredibly well done, with an excellent use of lighting and color. All in all, this is a wonderful yet flawed game that I highly recommend. You can download Gene Effect now for about three fifty.