Review by Amakusa42

"One part Monty Python, one Part Star Trek, one part Sim city equals FUN GAME!"

Lets face it, its the slow season for games. Not a lot of noteworthy stuff has been released recently, and having no job anymore (Laid Off, essentally: your not good enough for us to put you anywhere else. Employers of my former job take note, I HATE YOU!), means I cant waste any cash on crap games. So given the choice between Gangsters 2 and Startopia... I chose Gangsters 2...

One hour later I was back in the store buying Startopia. Note to self, PLAY DEMOS first!

WELCOME TO MY SPACE STATION TOUR
From the well animated beginning intro (which ripped off 2001 and Star Trek: TNG pretty well), you realize this is not a game which takes things too seriously.

THE GOOD

FIRST STOP: INTERFACE SQUARE
Like Black & White, this game has a simple control scheme that works very well. A pointer on screen activates various functions. A Left-Click allows you transport up any non-living objects (including dead bodies) and place them in your 'pattern buffer.' Essentially, its a column of spaces that you can hold stuff in. Another left click and you 'beam' the top most thing in your 'pattern buffer' back where the pointer is. Right-Click on the station floor, and any station plans for rooms you have, (like a medical bay or sleeping berth) pop up in a mini-menu. Click on the name of the object you want, and place the outline on the deck. Instant buildings! Once a building is built by your Scuzzer Droids (I'll get to them in a minute), another right click allows you modify the room. For example, in a Berth you can add or remove Sleeping Pods, Lamps, Doors, and change the cost a creature is charged for sleeping in the room! You can even change the price of the food dispensers on the station with a quick click of the button!

Looking around is accomplished by moving the mouse around or using the cursor keys. You can alter the height of the camera by using the mouse wheel or using the Insert and Delete keys. Finally, you can rotate the camera by holding Right-Control and moving the mouse. Simple and easy to remember. If you dont like those defaults, you can assign your own.

You also can switch between your 3 decks with ease. Just press 1, 2, or 3 on the keyboard to go between you basic, pleasure, and Bio-decks (more later).

SECOND STOP: ANIMATION DECK
Though not really exceptional by any means, the animation seems to ride the line between cartoony and serious without losing anything. Even from far away, little creatures can be identified. Detals abound, from effects the sirens use, to the medical scanners in the Medical Bays. They are fancy, no doubt about it. There is also no slowdown, even on a crowded deck, or as you switch between decks.

THIRD STOP: AUDIO STATION
Sound is crisp, with each deck having thier own sounds, each race making diffrent noises, and each building having its own sound effects. People with surround systems and
those unnecessarily expensive sound cards can rejoice, this game is made for you. Skim around a medbay as a Grey activates a medical scanner, and you will see what I mean.

The music is by no means exceptional, but its not bad either. Solid stuff.

FORTH STOP: GAMEPLAY DECK
Well, this is really what it is all about isn't it? I am happy to say there are no problems here. A simple and eay to learn interface allows you to concentrate your attention where its needed the most, the game. You have a lot to contend with here. Lets stake the start mission for example:

The Grey's, impressed with your reputation, have contracted you to turn an empty space station into a hospital. You must cure no less than 100 patients while still turning a profit. Additionally, you must let no more than 10 people die while on your station. Sounds simple right? So just build a medbay, a space port, and a power facility, and you've got it made dont you? Well, not exactly.

First you need to hire people, provide a food dispenser, a lavatron, a recycling station, and some form of entertainment for your happy workers. Bordem is just as bad as being underpaid, and entertainment sites cost money. Dont forget! Check your Doctor's skill level when you hire them. If you have a lousy doctor, people will die out of your own stupidity... And unlike real life, in this game stupidity is expensive. Every time someone dies, it costs you money. Oh and did I mention the occasionally the Grey's will send inspectors to your station to check and see how clean it is? If they dont like your station, they can shut you down.

And only specific races can run specific rooms. For example, only Greys can run your medbay, but you need Salt Hogs for the recycling bin, and Sirens for the brothel (yes a brothel).

And for those wanting a little slice of home, you have the bio-deck. A small area of natrual ground you can modify at will. Kind of like Populous. You can also use the land (once you have adjusted its temperature, elevation, and moisture levels) to grow crops. I do so enjoy the fact I can afdjust the ground to grow illegal black market goods. If only they grew faster...

Sounds like a lot, but its all easily done. The biggest factors are adjusting prices on your rooms so you can turn profit quickly. Too much and visitors will drop off. Too little and you won't have enough money to run your own station. To boost visitors, there is the pleasure deck. A simple press of button 2 will take you there, and allow you to build tourist traps. A music store, a general store, and a brothel can all be built. Each brings in some money for you, but don't build it if you can afford it. I went broke trying to build a Star Hotel on my pleasure deck!

Helping you are two main things: a Scuzzer Droid and an Artificial Assistant. Your assitant is the true gemn of the game. With a slightly british accent and total cynicism, he can turn the dull drudgery of the long parts of the game into fun. Scuzzer droids come in two types: Basic and Security. The basic Scuzzer droids build structures and picks up litter. The Security Scuzzer is the law on your station, and they can also help you take over the sections of the station you don't own. These guys can be picked up in your pattern buffer and beamed where you need them. Personally, I say you can never have enough droids, but remember, they cost money.

Still, the best part about all the gameplay is this: Its all fun. Not too much to worry about, not too little to make it boring. A pleasent diversion to say the least.

Oh and one more thing. If you do manage to beat single player mission mode, there is still a sandbox mode and multiplayer! Competing with human players is a REAL challenge, since they don't mind using sneaky and underhanded tactics to get the job done. Oh wait, that was me sending spies and Saboteurs to hurt the enemy. Excuse me.

THE BAD

DERAILMENT
As nice as the game is, it is not perfect. Sometimes the game just forgets you placed stuff, and it vanishes! This doesn't happen with buildings, but non essential things like benches and corridor lamps. Since the damn things have a money investment, and visitors to the station can complain they can't find thier way around, thats a real hassle.

Occasionally, the camera starts moving around on its own for no reason. I am not sure what the cause of this is, but its annoying to have to exit the gameplay and go back into the save menu to alleviate this problem.

And don't have a structure on your pointer if you decide to move the camera around, you wont be able to control it. I couldn't place a Starport because I couldnt focus on the outer walls of the darn station!

THE UGLY
As this game is well done, there is nothing that fits here.

FINAL STOP: MEDBAY

Still, an impressive effort from a camplany that has only made one game before. If this is any example of thier work, I cant wait to see what they come up with next.

Graphics - 9
+ Good, lots of little effects.
- Nothing stands out, its just... there.

Sound - 9
+ Good use of sound and music, good voice overs.
- No tracks stand out, nothing truly makes your hardware work.

Camera - 7
+ Easily learned, easily mastered.
- Some bugs that REALLY should have been fixed before release.

Playability - 9
+ Fun!

Replayability - 9
+ Multiplayer and sandbox mode
- Overly cheap human opponents... Oh wait that was me. Never mind.

Overall - 9
A worthy purchase and addition to your PC games collection.

- Amakusa wants to know why people wont pay more than 100 credits for synthetic food, I need the real stuff for the black market!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/01, Updated 07/12/01


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