Okay, Let's Face It. God Games Have to work really hard to actually be bad. Name me any one god game that wasn't any good. (Sim Tower - Ed.) You see, you can't, (Sim Ant - Ed.) Everything from Sim City to Civilization to Theme Hospital, they're all great. (Sim Farm - Ed.) So Afterlife. LucasArt's new quite literal 'god' game is entering the world's safest game genre, so everything should be a-okay. Or should it?
You see, the theory that all god games are wonderful is fundamentally flawed. They're great for the first five hours; after that you tend to have seen pretty much everything the game has to offer and all that's left is the challenge of playing the thing effectively. That's fine for the basic models (Sim City. Civilization etc) where the initial concept was on balancing the strategy element of the game effectively, but for the shall we say. 'concept' god games (Sim Ant, Theme Park, Sim Tower etc) this tends to leave them wanting as the novelty factor wears off. I return to the original Sim City every now and then, but 1 haven't played Theme Park since December 1994-Afterlife is a 'concept' god sim.
But Afterlife is a 'concept' god sim that sticks true to the original concept of Sim City and manages to keep something alive within it (no pun intended) well after the novelty factor has worn off. It's also the first god game in which you actually do play god. or close enough. The idea is that you are in charge of developing both Heaven (ahh-ahh-ah) and Hell (crackle, singe), making sure that all the lost souls that enter your pearly gates find either the spiritual reward of the virtuous or the eternal punishment of the damned. You do this by 'zoning' areas of your afterlife according to needs.
For example, a soul is wandering around Heaven looking for a reward based on his honest life. You therefore need to zone (in much the same way you'd zone commercial, residential or industrial areas in Sim City) an honest area for him to enter and set up residence. Conversely, if he's wandering around Hell after having led a life of lust, you'll need to give him somewhere warm down below. Zoning costs money of course, or in this case. Pennies From Heaven, which is gained from each soul you save. Fail to give a soul a home and you'll lose both him and some cash.
What's particularly nice is the way that each zoned area develops over time. Just as in Sim City, in which small houses would grow, followed by larger complexes then huge skyscrapers, here we see small scale 'generic' rewards and various punishments (such as gardens of eternal loveliness or monsters constantly nibbling on regenerating limbs for all eternity) that grow in size and scale as your afterlife gets bigger.
Ail sounds familiar
It all works in a very similar way to Sim Cily. Your citizens/souls have needs, and it's up to you to attend to them. What sets it apart from the Maxis classic is the fact that you have to spend much more time dealing with the individual souls, rather than just accommodating general trends. Each soul has a time limit on their punishment/reward before they vanish. You can adjust different areas to allow for more permanent residents (or go in the other direction and start shipping souls through at speed) but as more souls start arriving, you'll need to start building more areas, all of which costs money. The alternative is to set up reincarnation posts and start sending people back, but again it's all about ensuring that each soul reaps their full reward/serves their full damnation, before you send them packing. If not, you lose money. That's where the challenge lies: man (or rather soul) management. Afterlife has all the elements that made Sim City so good, plus the personal touch (not to mention LucasArts' high-quality polish) - there's enough to keep you hooked long after the 'concept' dies away.
The other thing that makes Afterlife so entertaining is the humour. Each of the punishments/rewards has a description that would put the best observational comedian to shame. Your advisors (good and bad angels on your shoulders, as it were) have a high level of banter on offer, and there are jokes stuffed in at every opportunity. They're all supplemental to the actual game (you don't need to read the descriptions) but when you find them they make you laugh. And that's what's important in comedy.
But at the end of the day, Afterlife is really Sim City Plus with different scenery. Ardent players of the granddaddy of god games aren't going to find much that's different and so should perhaps knock a bit off the final score. However, if you're looking for something that says to the genre, "Look, you can have all the fancy themes and ideas you like. Sim City is still the most playable game of its type so that's going to be our basic model", then Afterlife is your man. It manages to improve upon the basic game without remoulding it into something else entirely that loses playability in the process. I can see myself still returning to Afterlife in four or five years' time. Which is surely the best thing you can say about such a game.
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode