The genetic survival game Niche was recently ported to the Switch, and may be the modern genetic video game players have been looking for.
With summer coming to an end and school starting back up, many gamers are looking for something fun to help break up their study breaks (aka, procrastinate). Thankfully there are plenty of games out there that are both fun and educational, like Niche. Niche is a genetic survival game that was created by Stray Fawn studios and released on Steam back in 2017. While it might not have seen a lot of traction when it first came out, it was ported to the Switch early this September, making it much more accessible.
Players of Niche are to grow a tribe of creatures (called Nichelings) and ensure they survive their changing habitat. Each Nicheling has two sets of genes that they pass down to their offspring through breeding. Some genes are good (big claws for attacking predators), some genes are bad (blindness), and some genes are neutral (green eyes). Players have to pick and choose which genetic traits to breed into and out of their Nichelings to help them defend against predators, find food, and navigate their environment.
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Use Your Mutation Slots
Each Nicheling has two mutation slots that allow the player to insert selected genetic traits. While these traits might not show up on the selected Nicheling, it has a 50% chance of being passed onto their offspring. These mutations allow them to pass on a gene that they wish they had. For example, a Nicheling with white fur could pass on a black fur gene to their offspring through mutation. It might seem like a waste to hope for a 50% chance of mutating a gene, but these chances are a lot more useful than you might think, especially in the early game. When a creature is born with blind genes or a deformed paw, it might be easier to mutate these traits out than breed them out.
Watch Your Immunity
Immunity genes are the only ones that cannot be mutated, and can only be changed by breeding. A Nicheling with two of the same immunity genes will be sick and lose health each round. This is why bringing creatures from outside the group is so important, as it will help expand the gene pool. In addition to their considerably shortened lifespan, sick Nichelings can pass their sickness to others standing close by. New players have to be careful to avoid inbreeding, as this is what causes a creature to have two of the same immunity genes. Expanding the tribe across the land can help with finding and recruiting new and interesting Nichelings.
Use All Your Moves
Adult Nichelings have three moves to use, but sometimes it is best to leave a creature where they are, even if they have moves left to use. While it might be faster to skip to the next day, this isn’t always the best course of action. Nichelings can attempt a skill, even if they don’t have the abilities for it. For example, a Nicheling who has no fishing skill can still try to fish. Most times, they won’t be successful, but sometimes they will be. Specific genes used in the mutation slots are unlocked through actions (fishing will eventually unlock the fishing tail gene). Each time a creature attempts an action, they are a little bit closer to unlocking useful genes.
Each Nicheling is its own unique bundle of genes, and each one can be different. It might be fun to create a whole tribe of peaceful berry pickers, right until a predator shows up. Or some players might want to play as a sea fearing race of fishing cats, but their next island might have sheer cliffs with no access to the ocean. All genes have their pros and cons; it’s when they all work together that a tribe can shine.
The best thing about this game is that players don’t need too many instructions since it’s just as fun to learn as the game goes along. With its cute graphics and simple gameplay, Niche is a game for players looking for a cute game to play in their downtime or an excuse to use their biology textbook again.
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