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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Sim / Management

 

Publisher

Gathering

 

Developer

Firefly Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

October 2003

 

 

- Fun web-slinging action

- Well designed cityscapes and worlds

- Great voice acting

- Includes some great villains (Venom, Carnage, Lizard, Rhino…)

 

 

- Doesn't make very good use of - 3D accelerators

- Some terrible looking textures

- Bad usage of standard PC joysticks

 

 

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Space Colony

Score: 8.3 / 10

 

Whenever a game attempts to ride on the success of a popular franchise, I cringe.  When “The Sims” kept popping up around Space Colony (SC) I was ready to write it off out-of-hand.  The only thing that stopped me was the sci-fi setting.  For maybe the second or third time, I’m glad I stayed my hand and actually played the game before reviewing it.

 

space colony pc review          space colony pc review

 

That being said, SC does play slightly like The Sims.  Emphasize, slightly!  You have to manage relationships at a mostly basic level and keep those under your command educated, clean, and rested, but you also have to deal with larger issues that affect the whole colony.

 

There are three main modes of play: Campaign, Mission, and Sandbox.  And that’s probably the order you should play SC.  After a trip through the skeletal tutorial, the Campaign mode starts you on baby-steps and ramps up the difficulty as your goals become more varied and your colonists more numerous.  Campaign lets you explore the workings of SC – how to manage relationships, basic base design, industry and commerce, keeping the base supplied with sufficient oxygen and electricity, etc. – and will give you a firm grasp of what’s possible during the 

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Sandbox and Mission modes.  The story, which involves being abandoned on a hostile planet, is more fun than serious, and helps to introduce the various technologies you’ll need.  Mid-way through the Campaign, colonists start to suffer from a mysterious illness, which you have to research and cure using the available technology.  Getting there can be tricky business because you have to train people and buy the right equipment before things can get underway.

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Managing the base building is not as much a problem as managing the people.  While mostly self-sufficient, your colonists – each with a different look and personality – have to be taken care of and managed.  Jobs need to be assigned and since each colonist comes with a different skill set, only certain characters can perform specific jobs.  On top of that, the skill sets can be upgraded so one colonist can be more efficient than another at the same skill.  And running a space colony is all about efficiency.  To this end, maintaining base morale is key. (A happy colonist is an efficient colonist.)  This is where managing relationships has the most bearing.

 

Because each colonist is unique, chances are they’ll be inclined to dislike at least one person – you can’t like everybody.  Many factors can smooth over bumpy relationships, such as disco dancing, working out, relaxing at the bar, and, of course, just plain talking.  When you’re trying to manage many people and keep relationships friendly, the pause button quickly becomes the most used feature of SC because there are so many things to consider.

 

In Pause mode, characters can be given orders and situations examined.  It provides the opportunity to make sure you’re using the colonists to the best of their ability, who their enemies are, how much “food” has been harvested, see if silicon has gone up in price and is ready to be sold, examine the power situation, setup base defense, re-organize living quarters and arrange tourist amenities.  There’s a lot to do and if you’re doing it on the fly you’ll run into problems later on – there’s just too much to manage without pausing the action.

 

space colony pc review          space colony pc review

 

The interface and menus is mostly streamlined.  The profile and status of each colonist can be brought up by clicking on their portrait at the bottom of the screen, then more detailed information can be accessed.  Accessing building options is simple, too.  Click on the buttons on the left side of screen and construction items pop up.  Click, drag, drop.  Nice and easy.  The same can be said of keeping the commerce side of things under control.  There’s a lot of information available at any one time but it’s all kept nicely and conveniently off-screen until you need it.

 

You’ll run into some frustration with SC’s presentation.  The action cannot be zoomed in or out easily.  To get a wider view of the colony the resolution has to be changed!  The default setting feels uncomfortably close, particularly when you have a large operation and the colonists are spread out.  Finding a specific colonist isn’t a problem (thanks to a “Find Colonist” button) but when they’re in constant motion, they’re hard to keep track of.  Adjusting the setting to 1024 x 768 is probably your best bet – then you won’t have to click on a colonist, click on the mini-map, then click on another location to get them on their way.  And when the construction tabs are open the entire screen isn’t obliterated.  Besides, having a wider view is easier on the eyes and you can appreciate the deft animation and color.

 

The audio suffers a little.  Not so much from the individual colonist, but when they’re all talking at once and a computer update comes through it's easy to miss ques.  And, in what is quickly becoming standard, SC also lets you import your own MP3s for background music.

 

How long will you be playing Space Colony?  A long time.  Not only do you get the three different play modes, there is also an option to load up user-created challenges (which are created by the included mission builder).  If you like sim and city management games, Space Colony has a lot to offer.  It might not be the best way to be introduced to the genre because it is so deep in the gameplay department, but those accustomed to the genre will eat this up and have a great time.

 

- Omni

(November 16, 2003)

 

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