As in many areas of science that are based around millions of repetitive calculations, computers have enabled biologists to delve deep into the workings of life.

Using artificial life simulations in their attempts to model the base chemical processes of our existence, scientists have demonstrated that simple actions can combine to create highly complex interactions. And it's this sort of thing French developer Little Worlds, via publisher Bulkypix, is messing around with in Survivium.

Of course, this being an iPhone game, and a fairly simple one at that, you can't expect to win a Noble Prize, although you might get a school science project out of it.

Kindergarten scientist

Set up in a fairly jokey way, your goal is to create the most powerful viruses you can, battling your creations with those pre-built within the game, as well as those cooked up by online players.

The process is easy, as the tutorial system unlocks more movements and actions for you to arrange into the looped sequence that defines the virus' genome. Your virus is then dropped into a virtual peri dish and has up to 45 second to compete with the opposing virus. The one that reproduces the most and controls the most area wins.

Actions include moving, jumping and rotating, spitting poison, laying an egg, eating the opponent and cloning. The trick however is that each action requires a certain time period to operate so while it takes two rounds to eat an opponent, cloning takes 10 rounds and your eggs take 12 rounds to hatch. Movement happens once per round.

In this way, even with the limitation of a maximum of 12 actions available, you can create some interesting viruses, with small rearrangements of the sequence causing divergent results.

You can save multiple viruses too, while the game's tutorials demonstrate that different opponent viruses require different approaches in order to be overcome. As in real life, there isn't an ultimate virus in Survivium, just a best one in the circumstances.

Infect the world

It's a shame then that the game's limited moves and actions restricts longevity. After a couple of hours, there's little more to experiment with, although there are always new viruses to battle with online.

In order to do this, you can upload your viruses to a central server and then challenge other people's to a duel; the results being logged on a global leaderboard. You get a certain number of duels to begin with but when these run out, you have to buy additional battle packs, which range from 50 duels for 99c/59p to 300 duels for $3.99/£2.39. (Originally launched as a 99c game, Survivium recently went freemium.)

Aside from the longevity issue, perhaps more damaging is the garish presentation, which ranges from neon shades for the user interface, to childish graphics and customisation options for the viruses themselves. You can unlock funny eyes and hats for them if you like. It's a shame because something scientific would have been more appropriate.

As it is then, Survivium is best described as My First Genetic Engineering Experiment. It's a neat idea, but one that doesn't quite deliver on its potential.