Publisher: Enlight Interactive
Developer: Vision Videogames, LLC
N Amer - 11/28/2006
Electronic - 12/21/2005
*After installation, and throughout playing the game, search for updates to SpaceStation Sim
Many of us dreamed of being an astronaut when we were tots, but not many people make it into a reality. So, we are left on the sidelines to watch launches and bury our noses in space trivia, instead. Now, I finally get the chance to explore the final frontier with the welcome familiarity of a simulation (sim) game for the PC. This game is a nice marriage of a good sim and out of this world fun.
Sim games often play the same. You get a blank field of some kind, and you must create your world (theme park, zoo, corporate business, etc) and make it thrive. The king of all sim games is now Maxis' Sims. The widely successful franchise allows you to create a home, character(s) and live a cyber life that is limited by your imagination. More so than other sims, Vision Videogame's SpaceStation Sim allows you to micro-manage your character and tasks much like The Sims. The object is not making money or ensuring there are bathrooms near lemonade stands. This unique game allow you to delve into situations that 99.9% of us will never get the chance to experience, otherwise. You rocket into space, team up with other astronauts, and complete missions while making sure life support and other sustaining systems are kept in check. There's more at stake than hungry customers and broken Ferris wheels.
With great collaboration from NASA and top pros in the field, Vision's SpaceStation Sim is very true to life and thoroughly realistic. Factual liberties are only taken when necessary to avoid annoying, petty problems. Like a racing game with automatic shifting enabled, it runs like it should-- without having to dumb it down too much for us novice space walkers.
Once you create your character with a Sims-like interface, your guy/gal is a genuine crew member alongside another specialist. When setting up your character, you must adjust their strengths and/or weaknesses. You can make them very social and chatty, or a savvy scientist. I tend to create characters with totally equal strengths on all levels (However, from time to time it's fun to create socially disruptive people just to see how they interact within such a secluded environment). This will effect the way your character handles issue when they come up in automation play. Otherwise, once aboard the vessel, you must assign tasks to all of the crew (which can grow or stay small - as you desire) and ensure a safe and effective space station is created and in use. You can also perform missions (how about a meteor storm?!) that offer some excellent scenarios to engage your imagination and skills. If you just want to float about and explore your surroundings more "free-form," you can do that as much as you like. However, you still have to make sure business is taken care of as your try to have fun. I can honestly say this is the first time I have had to use Oxygen Scrubbers! You also must maintain commutations with Mission Control, who greatly influence your productive time in orbit.
You can build various specified modules (scientific, structural, habitation, etc) onto your station somewhat endlessly. It's like a hamster "Habit-trail" in space. Annoying tourists may arrive and get in the way, so if you want to get them out of your floating hair, it's wise to create places where they can occupy space without cramping you in. The icon based controls are easy to use, though consulting the manual is a must. It can get complex and it's easier to keep the booklet handy than to memorize images and their functions. Select your astronaut and a task for them to do. If it requires urgency that should precede another task already assigned, you can delete items so they get to the more important things, first. If left alone, the crew will (ideally) manage themselves with decent effectiveness. But who wants to just sit and watch them like fish in an aquarium-- when you can engage yourself and try to expand the station to test your abilities? It's a somewhat more proactive adventure than many other kinds of sim games.
Visually, the game looks very nice. You can grab and rotate the entire station for better views and angles. It automatically provides you with a cutaway view so you can always see what's going on inside. This worked very well and was very helpful. I did not experience any snags or typical frustrations with this feature. The minimum system requirements for the game are deceptively small. This will allow people to enjoy this game without having to own a gaming beast of a machine.
The sounds were nice and enhanced the environment very well. The game starts with a desk-rumbling launch. This gives the subwoofer a nice thumping, and sets the mood for the experience. Communications sound as if I *think* they would - not having real-life space experience to compare it to. The bottom line is that it feels like I imagine it should feel. When in the station, I think it sounds like things should.
This is a great diversion from the typical type simulation games. I did want to be an astronaut at one time, or at least work within that field. This is likely the closest I will get to that experience. It plays a lot like the famous Sims game, which is a plus for me. It allowed me to enjoy the game more easily since I was already familiar with the interface.
|Review Scoring Details for SpaceStationSim|
The game plays a lot like Maxis' Sims. You create a character by gender, hair, skin and clothing preferences to your tastes. Once in space, you need to monitor your stations statistics and act upon needs as they arise. The characters will act on their own if your initial guidance has been thorough enough. Then, you can work on more interesting tasks like module creation and seeing what trouble you can create and resolve in space. There is a very nice tutorial, but the manual is a must for fast learning.
There are some odd-looking glitches here and there. At times, my character icon (bottom left of the screen) would appear to have a transparent face with only floating eyeballs and hair. There is also a lot of pixel-mixing as my astronauts blended with items they were interacting with. My guy would reach out to work on something, and his arm would become part of the machine he was touching. Those oddities did not take anything away from the experience, and the smooth cutaway look was more than enough to make up for it. Where it counts, The game looks pretty good.
The mission control sounds like it should - based on what I have observed on the NASA channel. They were able to use actual samplings from real sources, which makes for a more enriching experience.
Like most simulations I play, this can be as easy or hard as you want it to be. You can play only missions and keep at it until you score well enough for your objectives. Or, you can play an open game - expanding the modules and learning how to keep people alive and what it takes to thrive (long term) in outer space. There are a lot of variables to keep in mind. The manual has some tips to help in that aspect, and the online support forum is excellent - as it has actual developers and other such Reps from the game - to help you out.
I have not played a simulation game like this, so it was unique for me. I enjoyed a new twist on playing a simulation, and playing one that was not profit-orientated like most others. Being new to this genre of sim, the online support forums were even more beneficial for the tips and insight.
Like Sims, this one allows the player to drive the action and the outcome is a result of your (in)abilities. Once in space, you control what happens and how far you take it. The missions are a nice escape from traditional sim missions, but playing freely is an open ended zone where you can thrive in your modules and truly learn about living in space. Without bogging you down like a all-day science project, you will learn the day to day procedures and requirements of prolonged life in space. Years ago, certain software was labeled "edutainment." Many of those products became no better than vinegar mixed with fruit punch. However, this is a chance to learn, be entertained and maintain a level of challenge while playing a solid game. I like a game that does not have a defined finish line. They may take more work and attention than level-based games, but when a good sim can both entertain and educate, it should not be ignored or taken for granted. It's refreshing to play a game in outer space - that does not involve acid-spewing monsters and laser weapons. More than merely "Sea Monkeys in Space", Space Station Sim is a rocket-boosted title that won't break the exploration budget. In the immortal words of Casey Kasem: "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."
Strap yourself down, grit your teeth and get ready to test your mental agility in an out of this world experience!
Reviewer: Code Cowboy
Review Date: 01/22/2007