Previously known as Space Station: Utopia, this is Mucky Foot's second game after the slightly disappointing Urban Chaos. It's also the game that might just put them on the map with the big boys. Made up largely of ex-Bullfrog members, the team is ready to accept the inevitable pigeonholing comparisons with titles such as Theme Park and Theme Hospital, but they're also quick to point out that they're taking the concept of these games to unprecedented heights.
Your job in Startopia is to build, manage and expand an allocated section of a space station, which becomes populated by all manner of alien creatures. The detail of each of the alien characters' lives is immense. These are sentient beings that need to eat, have a good time, fall in love, go to the toilet and have sex (although not necessarily in that order). Unlike The Sims, however, you won't get bogged down in the boring minutiae of common daily life.
The game's currency is energy, which is sent out in vibes, thoughts and even excrement by the station's inhabitants. The happier they are and the better you are able to balance the needs of each individual creature; the more energy will be added to your coffers.
Diplomacy and trade with the outside world play a part, as does the traditional Theme gameplay that brought Bullfrog so much success in the past. Being able to manage this micro-society of multicultural and diverse species gives Startopia a depth we've not encountered in this type of game before. You can expect the usual research and personnel management (you recruit directly from the population) along with more unusual confrontations with space pirates or Jabba the Hut look-alikes, who will try to make you run the station just the way they like it. You can even battle with other parts of the station as you expand through the missions.
Each section of the station has three levels, one of them being an environmental bio dome, where you can recreate the original habitat of the predominant race in your alien hotel complex. We should point out that the way you manage the station will affect what type of aliens who come to live there, which in turn will affect every other facet of daily life.
The developers' love of sci-fi really comes through in the way different missions echo classic scenes from famous, and sometimes obscure, sci-fi fiction. While watching the demo, we were reminded of the giant ships in Iain M Banks's Culture novels - they have the same variety of life and odd social situations - with more than a splash of Douglas Adams' galactic humor.
Gary Carr, who was lead artist on Theme Hospital (as well as Powermonger and Populous 2), felt that the NHS send-up in that game wasn't understood properly by the European and American market. But Startopia looks a dead cert to have a more universal appeal and hopefully be an even greater success.
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Startopia Screenshots and Media
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