End Evil

Space Colony

Space Colony is a fun title with a cute art style and game-play which is reminiscent of the Sims. Developed by Firefly Studios and published by Gathering, the game challenges you to successfully run a series of colonies on a variety of remote alien planets. More of a development of existing genres than anything new, this game still provides a decent challenge and should keep you amused for several hours.

Stig from Space Colony

To begin you can choose to "Play Space Colony" (linear mission progression), or you can select "Sandbox Mode" (build your own world, no specific aims), or you can play "Galaxy Mode" (attempts to mix the sandbox and mission mode together, so you have limited choice). The sandbox mode soon becomes boring without any specific aims and so the mission modes are the most worthwhile. You choose from two linear progressions, one with the focus on economics and one with the focus on warfare.

Working for Blackwater Industries, a huge mega corporation with little sympathy for their workers is a difficult prospect. The missions start out fairly gently, but soon ramp up in difficulty and length, each mission must be succeeded in order for you to progress. When each mission begins you start at your base and space colonists arrive one by one on the shuttle. You must ensure that they complete the work which needs to be done and that they stay happy while doing it.

You can select buildings and objects for inside the buildings from a fold out menu on the left of the HUD. As colonists arrive you must assign them to a bed and then to a job, or you can choose to rotate them between two jobs. The colonists have a needs system which will be familiar to anyone who has played the Sims before, you must tell them to wash, eat, have fun e.t.c. Although they are noticeably better at dealing with their own needs than the Sims are, something which comes as a relief when you consider the fact that you have other aims in missions, from mining ore to finding alien pods, it is still necessary to keep a fairly close eye on their progress unless you want them freaking out.

You never start with a blank canvas unless you choose sandbox mode, generally you will find that some of the basics have been provided and as you progress many missions lead from one into the next retaining the same base, so you continue to build on what you were building in the last mission. This is a bit lazy as you do not get the chance to visit many different planets. In places there are nonsensical barriers which prevent you from accessing areas of the map which are intended for a later mission, this is poor game design.

Space Colony screenshot

There are twenty different colonists in total, though you get a different number and combination of people for each mission. The colonists are nicely realised, they have unique personalities and skills and this also affects how they interact with each other. You can develop friendships between colonists by telling them to socialise with each other and as you would expect some get on easily and others don´t. You have to keep them healthy both physically and mentally via a series of activities, they each have activities that they particularly like and so catering for their specific desires is important. Skills can be learned by reading or at an accelerated rate in the learning pod (but this is expensive).

Each planet features a variety of alien races most of whom are unfriendly so it is often necessary to build defences for your colony. As with the colonists the art style is very cute and the various creatures are nicely animated, though the AI is pretty basic in terms of behaviour. The economic missions seem to work best as you can usually find a nice balance between keeping your colonists happy and completing the objectives of the mission. The military missions are more frustrating and attacks by the aliens are very fast and chaotic. The battles can often degenerate into a hoard of aliens swarming your lasers and destroying them as you frantically place out as many more as you can afford until you reach critical mass and they start to recede.

The sound in the game is nice, futuristic music and a lot of voiceover dialogue help to build the setting and add a great deal of personality to the characters. It´s in the voiceovers that a lot of the comedy comes through and there are many nice touches, like characters muttering to themselves as they go insane and start wandering randomly ignoring your commands. The mission briefing cut scenes from Blackwater Industries HQ are also nicely done and quite funny in places.

Overall it is the quirky comedy and cute art style which makes this game worth a look. The game play is pretty decent striking the right balance between complexity and difficulty while remaining accessible and fun to play. This isn't a title which will have you coming back over months but in the short term it is an enjoyable distraction and completing it is not too taxing. If you enjoy management sims then give Space Colony a try it´s full of personality.

Review by Simon Hill

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