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» NINTENDO 64 » HARDWARE » PS2 » PSOne » XBOX » GAMECUBE » HANDHELDS » SEGA
Ryan (Captain Kryptonite) Finley August 16 , 2001 Review Feedback

Startropia

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$39.99 SamGoody.com

Ever since I first loaded up Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital back in 1996, I have been in love with the “management sim” genre. There’s something innately beautiful about trying to juggle the many aspects of building and economics in order to squeeze every last buck out of your patrons. What can I say? I love capitalism. Over the years, we have seen many variations on the management theme. We’ve been given the

 Software Specials
 
 Screenshots
 
Stats

Genre:
Simulation

Release Date:
Available

Publisher:
Eidos

Developer:
Mucky Foot

ESRB:
Teen

Requirements:
450 Mhz Pentium II
Windows 95B/98/ME
64 MB RAM
DirectX 8 3D accelerator card
DirectX8 sound card
DirectX8 or higher
4X CD-ROM drive
300 MB hard drive

 
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opportunity to run railroads, theme parks, the aforementioned hospitals, and even dungeons. Now for the first time, we’ve been given the opportunity to run a full-fledged space station in Mucky Foot’s Startopia.

To boldly profit where no man has profited before...

If you know anything at all about management sims, you’ll feel right at home in Startopia. You’re charged with managing various sections of a space station through building, trading, managing employees and other means. The bottom line is to turn a profit. Mucky Foot has experience in this genre, and it really shows. You’ll find all the traditional aspects of management here, and they’re all exceedingly well executed. There are also nine different alien races that visit your station, and they all have their own strengths. From the mighty Kazvagorians to the medically advanced greys, they all serve a very specific purpose on your station. One way in which Startopia sets itself apart from the crowd is in the sheer variety of ways you can go about turning said profit. One problem I’ve always had with previous management sims, is that after awhile they become a bit too easy, once you find the magical formula for success. This is usually due to the fact that you’re often limited based on the “theme” of the title. Startopia dances around this problem rather nicely. You’re in charge of a full-fledged space station, in which you can build hospitals, brigs, restaurants, bathrooms, and even farm for crops. If you want to make all your profits based almost entirely on trade, you can do it. If you’d like to concentrate on having the best leisure facilities available and becoming an interstellar tourist trap, you can do that too. The possibilities for income are nearly limitless.

Startopia also does an excellent job of teaching you the many facets of its gameplay. They start out with nice tutorial missions, which will give you all the basics to help you jump right into the game. The learning doesn’t end with the tutorials, however. You might consider the first few missions to be advanced tutorials. Each one concentrates on one way in which you can make your money in Startopia. For instance, one of the early missions gives you the task of growing a certain amount of food within a designated time limit. Another early mission gives you the task of “rehabilitating” a certain number of criminals without letting too many of them get away. Needless to say, by the time you get to some of the more open ended missions, you will find yourself well versed in the many ways you can turn a profit.

This isn’t solely a completely pacifistic economic sim, however. At some points in the game you will be required to take over an opponent’s segment by force. This is one of the only aspects of the game in which I found myself mildly disappointed. Combat basically boils down to who has more combatants. There really is no strategy to use, and you essentially kick back and watch, hoping your guys come out on top. I can’t blame them for not giving more control over the battle sequences, however, as they aren’t what Startopia is all about.

The interface in Startopia is excellent as well. You can play the game with your mouse and only your mouse, if you so choose. The excellent interface makes it easy to manage employees, build the variety of structures, and trade with other aliens. Camera control is also very good, which is important with the variety of elements you have to keep track of. Startopia also incorporates an excellent autosave system which rotates through three different autosave slots to allow you to go back a little bit earlier in the action. You can spend a lot of time in Startopia simply admiring the graphical beauty of it all. Each alien race has its own unique, quirky personality, and you can enjoy yourself just watching them as they go about their business. The graphics manage to walk the fine line between cartoony and futuristic, with a blend of entertaining aliens and technologically advanced structures and items. The sound fills out the complete package nicely. Each race also has its own easily recognizable speech. The sound effects are all well executed, with the usual selection of beeps, bumps, and whizzes. One of the most entertaining aspects of the sound design is the voice of your computer advisor. He gives good information injected with a good amount of sarcastic remarks to keep things interesting.

There were a few technical issues with the unpatched version I played. There tended to be a good amount of lag whenever there were a large number of characters on screen simultaneously, usually during combat sequences. I also encountered a couple of instances of the game completely crashing out to the desktop, and actually had to start a mission over from scratch due to that very problem.

If you’re a fan of the management sim genre, you’ll find a lot to love in Startopia. Mucky Foot took the successful elements of its predecessors, added a few new ideas, polished em all up, and crammed em into a beautiful and challenging package. This is one of those games that will make you lose track of time completely. It takes a lot of focus to get all the aspects humming like a well-oiled machine, and Startopia manages to keep it fun the whole way through. The flexibility of Startopia is perhaps its greatest strength. Where others in the genre have forced you to go about making a profit a specific way, Startopia has opened the doors completely. Whether you want to be a Captain Kirk-like hard nosed thug, or a Captain Picard-like peacemaker, the choice is up to you.

Game Title Rating
Concept
Takes all the best from previous management sims, but adds enough to make it interesting.
90

Gameplay
Excellent interface and learning curve.
94
Graphics
Beautiful aliens and structures with plenty of personality.
95
Sound
Very entertaining voiceover work, and excellent sound effects.
92
Technical
Couple issues with lag and crashes.
82
Overall
Seems almost like a combination of many of the best management sims to date.
91



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