Some one close the airlock...

...And the second Space Colony simulator game I'm going to cover is the mildly amusing Startopia... because it's the only other one out there... Startopia jumped up in 2001, one year after Eidos released Deus Ex, and seemed as though they were trying to maintain a high standard of game production. Guess what: they did just that, again! Muddy Foot Productions (RIP, sadly) were another one of those companies that had few actual releases but those they did have were inspired and played with intriguing game engines and control methods - namely Blade II... seriously, give it a shot for the dual stick control system - in a word: innovative! Back to Startopia! You play the supervisor of a space station with the assistance of an artificial intelligence, called VAL, who is to personal assistants what Gregory House MD is to bedside manner: he may be right but you won't necessarily like the methodology. Your job, as per usual, is to facilitate a number of different alien species acorss a wide range of requirements and manage the station both economically and technically. What makes this game different? For a start, let's begin with the humour - namely that it is actually the second narrator and Voice of the Book (specifically the HitchHikers' Guide to the Galaxy book), William Faulkner, as the voice of VAL and the script and eloquence of such an esteemed actor goes in no small way to adding a very specific tone to the enjoyment of the game. It is also necessary to note several geekish in-jokes throughout the game, such as irreverant nods to the likes of Babylon 5, Star Wars and Star Trek through a variety of different mediums including certain sound-effects, characteristic references or off-the-wall comments. The task at hand, however, takes itself quite seriously indeed: whether you're facilitiating a hospital, creating a prison, providing a pleasure palace or farming a variety of plants, the game engine specifically allows for each and all of these to be actively in play simultaneously. Add to this that there are up to 9 unique alien races that visit your stations and can participate in its various functions, if not just to enjoy the environment that you've laid out for them. Each race has a specific skill and may be employed to run elemtns of your base, but these individuals have three specific attributes that the player must be aware of: Skill, Loyalty and Dedication. It's all very well having a Galactic Class Neuro-Surgeon if they can't be bothered to get out of bed or immediately join the opposition... And the range of facilities, as the game progresses, widens significantly. Beginning with the basic civil services, such as a port, berths, dino-mat and lavatron (guess what they do...) you will quickly be provided with access to security stations, space ports, hotels, bars, discos, shops, prisons, love nests, recyclers and other such amenities. The game is moderately challenging and also comes with one of the earliest true sand-box modes that adds a a little more time to the products replayability. So what's not to like? This is, as I mentioned earlier, an older game. The graphics are dated, the engine is old and the gameplay is ultimately a little on the short side... and that's all I can really say against picking it up - the younger gamer may not be THAT interested in it due to its dated features, but for the retro-gamer who fancies a strategy simulation with a mild, geek chuckle and several winks to our favourite sci-fi stories, this is a game that should not really be missed. 8 out of 10.