It gets harder and harder for gods to impress us mere mortals these days. Twenty years ago, all a deity had to do to command respect was flatten the land out a little bit and magic up the odd natural disaster. But nowadays, humans demand much, much more from their gods: variety, balance, the ability to see more than three inches of playing surface at a time...
Populous, the title that kick-started both the god game genre and the career of Peter 'Fable' Molyneux, seemed to be a game of impossible complexity when it burst onto the scene back in 1989, but today we can see it for the simple resource-management game it is. Basically, the idea is to ensure that your worshippers outnumber those of your rival gods, so that when 'Armageddon' arrives (which can be initiated by either side, or otherwise kicks off automatically when the time limit expires) your little fellas will be the last men standing.
To set yourself on the path to victory, the first thing you'll want to do is flatten the land (with a satisfying swipe of the stylus) so that your gatherers can build themselves little (or big, depending on your landscaping skills) homes. Once they're settled in, they'll start worshipping away, earning you God Points with which you can set about ruining the day of the opposing god by conjuring up a stream of earthquakes, volcanoes and the like.
There's more to it than that, but not an awful lot more. We have happy memories of playing Populous in our youth, but all the nostalgia in the world can't help you when the reality hits that you're basically playing the part of a huge omnipotent spade, endlessly levelling dull, featureless landscapes for no real purpose. EA Japan, na´vely but endearingly so, have attempted to jazz things up by including a number of 'wacky' levels, such as a candy land and a world where people live in Nintendo consoles. But they're all just as ugly as the 'classic' skin, and just kill the atmosphere stone dead.
The controls are horribly fiddly too. To move around the map, you have to hold down the shoulder buttons and then slide the stylus around the screen - not as painful as it sounds, but forget to grip the shoulder buttons just once and you'll turn your entire civilisation into a mountain in an instant. Nope, it's old and crap, this one. No wonder people are jumping on board the atheist bus.
The sad effects of ageing in all their glory. Populous used to crack top ten games lists in 1990. Populous DS isn't even one of the top ten games this issue.