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Why I Love Space Colony

Space Colony - Venus and CrewSome people who call themselves hardcore gamers laugh when I tell them I enjoy Space Colony. . . just like they laughed when I told them I liked Tomb Raider. So maybe they're right when they say Tomb Raider is "first-person shooter lite." I guess that makes Space Colony "real-time strategy lite." Know what? That's OK.

Space Colony does have its flaws. You can't create your own characters; you can't rotate the game map, zoom in and out, or rotate objects before placing them; you can't queue up actions for characters to perform, like you can in The Sims. The interface is simple and there aren't a lot of choices. But what Space Colony lacks in technical flash, it more than makes up for in creativity, challenge, and just plain fun.

The graphics are kinda old school, but they're well rendered and quite stylish. Best of all, you don't need one of those high-end, Doom3-type computers to play this game. (See system requirements.)

At the heart of Space Colony is its characters. After a few hours of gameplay, this diverse bunch of spacefaring misfits become like a second family (albeit a slightly dysfunctional one). Each crew member is a little different (except maybe the twins Hoshi and Kita) and each one brings his or her individual strengths and weaknesses to the colony. The voice acting is quite good, and even after playing the game on and off for several years, I still hear snippets of dialogue that surprise me and make me laugh out loud.

Stig on the LaserSimplicity isn't necessarily a bad thing either. Though you can certainly spend time poring over the manual (or browsing this site), it's just as easy to dive right into the game. It has a straightforward tutorial, accessible help files on every object and colonist, and well-designed missions that enable players to learn as they go. You begin with a few characters and learn to make them work, socialize and have fun. You learn to build your base from simple bio domes to resource-harvesting machines to lasers and robotic soldiers. As the challenge increases, so does your satisfaction in beating each mission.

Extra features give the game replay value and ongoing freshness. With three different difficulty settings, you can replay the linked story-mode missions several times and still find new challenges. There are also 24 more stand-alone "Galaxy Mode" missions that you can play before, during or after beating the main game. Then there's "Sandbox Mode," 8 additional planets where you get a crew and a budget then decide what you want to accomplish. As if that weren't enough, Space Colony also includes map and campaign editors for creating your own missions and importing levels that other players have made.

Personnel ShuttleIn case you need yet another enticement to try it, you can also import your own MP3s to play as background music. Not that the in-game music is lacking. The title track is bouncy and fun, and the atmospherics are just that: mood setting without being distracting.

The cover of the game includes the blurb (from Electric Playground's review), "If you like The Sims and sci-fi, you're going to LOVE Space Colony." I do. . . and I do!

P.S. One final caveat: Space Colony is rated "Teen" by the ESRB. It received this rating because it contains the following elements:

  • Animated blood (mostly sloppy, green alien blood)
  • Mild violence (aliens getting fried by lasers; colonists fighting and knocking each other out; the occasional colonist death due to accident, disease or combat)
  • Mild language (A few colonists use curse words, though you won't hear them often, and you won't hear anything worse than what's on Cartoon Network at night.)
  • Sexual themes (Just like in The Sims, colonists can fall in love, proposition each other and fool around under the bedcovers. It's not graphic, but it's definitely sex.)
  • Use of alcohol (This isn't mentioned in the ESRB rating, but cautious parents and recovering alcoholics might want to know that bars are included among the recreational activities in the game.)

For more info, see the ESRB's rating page.



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