And If You Thought that joke was bad, you should see some of the gags in the manual to Bullfrog's entry into the world of resource management simulations. A race of large-nosed aliens called Schnozzoids (ask your parents), a laid-back species called Bohemians, highly evolved kangaroos being made judges in court sessions, and Captain Jean-Luc Pontiac commanding a massive starship. Typical Bullfrog humour really.
But Gene Wars. You've heard a lot of talk, seen the image-sparse adverts and recognise the pedigree. So what's it all about? Well, before you take a look at the screenshots and start crying, "Forsooth, 'tis naught but Command & Conquer in differing garb! A Dune II by any other name!" let me just remind you that it was Bullfrog that invented the whole genre back in the old days of gaming lore with a simple little title called Populous. Okay, so it didn't have the firepower and graphical quality of Mr Westwood and his associates, but it was a classic, and without it the gaming world would be very, very different.
This time the hook is that you have to develop colonies on different planets (in the traditional mining/resource, gathering/terrain exploring manner of all these games, except that you're not allowed to be violent). Following an intergalactic war that near-ravished the area so competently described as outer space, the Ethereals, a Vorlon-style race of super-intelligent aliens, stepped in and threatened to genetically remove all the aggression genes from the younger races, forcing them to work together or become mindless poetry students.
Now each race has to fulfil a selection of planetary colonisation tasks or have their genes wiped clean. The race that puts up the best show will be granted the powers of the Ethereals, the rest will become mindless slaves for them to play with. Colonisation works by using your four types of worker (engineers, geneticists to develop new creatures for your gene pods to grow, botanists to provide you with plantlife and rangers to look after your creatures and animals) to meet the conditions of each planet. Sometimes you'll just need to harvest enough goop (the 'currency' of the game), sometimes you'll need to grow a certain type of creature, and sometimes you'll just need to survive. And always you'll need to stay in the Ethereals' good books.
So... no guns then?
Well, not strictly speaking. You see, the Ethereals don't have eyes everywhere and so when they're not around you are free to do as you please, and be as violent as you like. Unfortunately you're never quite sure when they're going to turn up and so the game becomes a serious case of quick attacks followed by some innocent whistling. Especially in multi-player, ipx-network mode. Graphically, Gene Wars takes those classic '50s B-movies as its cue. Flash Gordon-style rocket ships, the occasional hollering of "To the far reaches of space!!!" from one of the on-screen characters and a manual that's littered with stills from films such as They Came From Venus and Killer Babes From Planet Mammarion (I kid you not).
Gene Wars looks as though it will have enough variety, humour and all-round entertainment value necessary to set it apart from its rivals. We'll bring you the full verdict as soon as Bullfrog get the game finished, which should be real soon now.
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode