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Sim life logo  CU Amiga Super Star

We've always said that Tony Dillon is the result of centuries of in-breeding. In Maxis' new god sim we can prove it!

Sim life Y ou'd be forgiven for thinking that Maxis' latest simulation extravaganza, Sim Life, looks almost exactly the same as Sim Earth. No-one could blame you either if, once you've caught a glimpse of the manual, you find yourself under the impression that it's even harder to get to grips with than its predecessor - if such a thing can be imagined. You would, however, be wrong on both counts.

To be fair, the two games do have a few common denominators. Like Sim Earth, Sim Life has no end point - you won't find a Game Over screen in this software. In keeping with their philosophy of creating software toys rather than games, Maxis have aimed to make the package as open ended as possible - you can literally do whatever you feel like.
That, however, is as far as the similarities go. In Sim Earth you had to build the world, but the aim was to keep the planet alive. Sim Life sums the whole equation on its head - once the world has been formed, forget about it and concentrate on the life forms. By cleverly evolving the beings you already have, and creating new, perhaps more suitable ones, you have to try and reach your chosen goal.

Upon loading, you are greeted by the main menu screen. Everything looks fine and dandy - there are half a dozen preset challenges, from turning a desert into a forest to keeping a species with a limited amount of males evolving, together with a tutorial and an experimentation mode. Remember, Sim Life has no specific end point - these scenarios are merely examples of the sort of goal you can set yourself.

From this point, things get a little complex. Two pages isn't a lot space to explain something that takes a 200-page manual to detail adequately, but I'll give it a go. Sim Life is based on an extensive set of biological rules concerning evolution and survival. Each lifeform is broken down to dozens of categories, from prototype genome, which dictates things like whether the animal can fly, how much energy is taken up by foraging for food and how many babies it has in a litter, to individual breakdowns which cover the sex of the animal, its various tolerance levels to hunger and thirst and the sort of things it likes to eat.

You don't just create animals either. You are also responsible for the evolution of plantlife, controlling such factors as how their seeds are spread, and the sorts of shrub they evolve into. Every creature is based on a prototype gene, but their surroundings and habitat dictate how each successive generation will mutate. It's this toying with the mutation that makes it so enjoyable.

Sim life Thankfully, you're not just thrown in al the deep end. A full on-screen tutorial takes you through the basics of the game, from building a world to understanding the reasons behind certain animal behaviour. A box will appear on screen and ask you to do something, such as select an option or create a certain plant. Once you have done that, the tutorial steps forward to the next stage, all the time keeping you fully informed of what you have done and the effects your actions have had. This makes getting into the game far easier.

The game is windows-based, with information panels summoned via a menu bar al the top of the screen. Being ported directly from the Apple Mac, the mouse control is highly intuitive; pop-up menus and help panels are displayed by clicking on the appropriate icons, and it looks a treat on the A4000 and 1200. Every control panel and display window is in a completely different box, so the screen can be rearranged to your heart's content, which is just as well as it can get very cluttered al times. There are dozens of information panels to work through, and it isn't advisable to have more than three on screen al once, if you can help it.

If reading this review has made you think of a couple of things you would like to do, chances are you can. Designer Ken Karakotsios has made a superb job of the design, giving the user total freedom.

Sim Life does everything it claims to do, and although it's extremely technical, it never baffles the user with jargon. Its only real downfall is, of course, the fact that only a small percentage of users will fully appreciate what it can do.

CU Amiga, May 1993, p.p.64-65

Sim Life comes with six ready-to-run scenarios, covering a wide spectrum of topics and experiments. They are:

1. Desert To Forest
Your aim here is to take a barren wasteland and turn it into a lush forest. To do so, you need to place loads of the more hardy plants, and hope they evolve. As plants die, they decompose, creating a more nutritious bed for some of the weaker plants.

2. Battle Of The Sexes
How would a species with an 80 percent female population exist? Here's your chance to find out. Remember, most of the babies will be female also, so after a few generations, some interesting mutations will take place.

3. Feast And Famine
You start with a large collection of herbivores and an even larger scattering of young plants. It all starts well, but watch what happens when the food runs out. An excellent lesson in food chain control.

4. Carnivoria
Stepping the previous scenario up a difficulty notch, this scenario adds meat eating predators to the scene. Can you keep a balance?

5. Terrible Lizard
What did happen to the dinosaurs? This experiment might just give you some idea. Were they all wiped out by a comet, or was it nothing more than a total breakdown of the food chain?

6. March Of The Mutants
Create some random genes and throw them out to fend for themselves. Weird and wacky mutants battle for supremacy, or al least survival to the next generation.

There are two different versions of this package being released. The first to hit the streets will be the A4000/A1200 version, which is the one reviewed here. Due to speed and memory, the largest of the four types of world is unavailable, but that is the only restriction. The A500/A600/500+ version will be released around the same time, and we're assured that the drop in speed will be minimal, and you will only be able to create the smaller two worlds. Apart from that, the game should be identical, so the mark given stands for that version too.

Sim Life contains a smattering of disasters which can be triggered by the player, or left for the computer to throw in at the moments when you could do without them.
1. Plague
A deadly virus is passed from animal to animal, wiping them out as it goes.

2. STD
A simple STD.

3. Heat Wave
There's nothing like global warming to mess up your plantlife. A quick heat wave increases global temperature dramatically.

4. Cold Wave
Like a heat wave, only colder

5. Flood
A flood is great for the see-dwelling creatures of your world, but a curse for any plantlife that lies in your coastal regions.

6. Drought
With a drought on, no rain will fall, and your plantlife will suffer.

7. Fire
This can only happen if there are plants in your ecosystem.

8. Comet
The old Maxis favourite, and the easiest way to wipe the slate clean and start again.

9. Teleport
Randomly re-arranges the plants end animals in your world.

10. Civilisation
This places land developers on the globe end lets them run wild.



Superbly designed, flawlessly executed, but a bit limited in commerciality.

Guter Gott!

Sim life AGA logo  AGA  A1200 Speziell

Wer immer noch meint, der 1200er sei nicht groß in Kommen, der lasse sich mal folgendes auf der Zunge zergehen: Die PC-Konvertierung von Maxis’ Evo-SIMulation erscheint zuerst nur für den Turbomiga!

Sim life AGA Allzu lange werden jedoch auch die Freunde älterer “Freundinnen” nicht mehr darben müßen, soll die 500er-Variante doch gleichfalls dieser Tage auftauchen (einer Kurztest mit den Unterschieden findet Ihr daher wenn nicht in diesem, dann im nächsten Heft). Was nun vorliegende Spezialversion angeht, so kommt nur in ihren Genuß, wer zuvor einen kleinen Intelligenztest in Form der exotischen Installroutine meistert. Danach darf man je nach Hardware an das normal- oder hochaufgelöste Erschaffen von Bäumen und Bienen gehen – wobei wir den Hobby-Göttern freilich einen Multisync-Monitor und mehr als zwei Megabyte RAM dringendst an schöpferische Herz legen würden...

Der hier simulierte Planet, den es mit Leben zu füllen gilt, hat durchaus Ähnlichkeiten mit seinem Gegenstück aus „Sim Earth“, steht dafür aber in drei Größen zur Wahl. Noch mehr Abwechslung garantieren die neun Schieberegler für Klima, Gebirgshäufigkeit oder radioaktive Strahlung sowie die zufällige Verteilung der Landmassen, so daß im Endeffekt eine nahezu unendliche Anzahl immer neuer Welten zur biogenetischen Bearbeitung bereitsteht. Vom Tutorial und den sechs speziellen Lern-Szenarien (etwa Überlebenstraining für Saurier) mal abgesehen, bleibt die Aufgabe jedoch stets gleich: Man siedle zunächst einmal Pflanzen an, und sobald diese sich im Verlauf der Jahre fest etabliert haben, wäre an die Fauna zu denken. Ein paar Bienchen vielleicht, Spinnen oder Eichhörnchen, und schließlich, wenn die Nahrungsketten stabil sind, einige Räuber.

Kurzum, nach einem festen Spielziel sucht man vergeblich, der Reiz liegt hauptsächlich im Experimentieren. Was geschieht, wenn ich die vorgefertigten Instant-Lebewesen verändere und so meine eigenen Flügelflagel in die freie Wildbahn entlasse? Wer frißt hier wenn, und was passiert, wenn die Nahrungskette via Genpool manipuliert wird? Wie wirken sich Seuchen, ’ne erfrischende Eiszeit oder hitziges Treibhausklima aus? Alles das und noch viel mehr kann man mit Sim Life auf digitaler Ebene nachvollziehen, stets von unzähligen Tabellen und Diagrammen umruhmt.

Zugegeben, optisch ist dieses Paradies jedes Bio-Lehrers selbst im (auf alle Fälle zu bevorzugenden) Hires-Modus nicht gerade der Garten Eden, doch immerhin wuselt fein gezeichnetes und vielgestaltetes Leben auf der gezoomten Landkarte umher. Im Überblicks-Atlas, der die ganze Welt zeigt, sind allerdings bloß bunte Klötzchen geboten, aber dafür hört man neben einigen eher lächerlichen FX recht passable Notenklänge. Schließlich wäre noch die nicht ganz simple Maus/Icon/Menü-Steuerung zu erwähnen; dank der vielfältig abrufbaren Hilfen kommt man allerdings schon bald erstaunlich gut zurecht. Fazit: Für die kleine Schöpfung zwischendurch ist Sim Life sicher das falsche Programm, experimentierfreudige Bio-Populanten mit Luxus-Hardware könnten es hingegen kaum komplexer treffen! (jn)

Amiga Joker, December 1993, p.?

Amiga Joker
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Sim life AGA logo  AGA  CU Amiga Screen Star


A Sim Life AGA t first view Sim Life looks one of those incredibly complex utilities that takes you ages to use properly before you realise that you don't actually like it. Fortunately that is only half true – it will take ages before you learn what all the buttons are for, but it's great fun experimenting. And that is the core of the game, as the designer Ken Karakotsios says, 'It is a game, a toy and an experimental tool to learn about life, real and artificial'.

It is absolutely necessary in such a deep game for you to be slowly introduced to it via growing levels of complexity. Thankfully, Ken has realised this and provides you with a full on-screen tutorial. Also, as it was ported straight from the Apple Mac the control system is very intuitive indeed. So, despite the fact that Sim Life has got more buttons than all the bellies in China you soon learn what all the major ones do. To help you start there are also six pre-set scenarios or experiments ready for you to explore. One of the fun ones starts you off with a colony of herbivores which then suffers from a gradual introduction of carnivores. The aim being to try to find out at what point a balance is reached.

There is no specific goal to be reached. The basic idea is to establish an ecosystem where the various lifeforms reach some kind of equilibrium with each other and their environment. You can achieve this by changing factors at ever level of the life scale from basic genes all the way up to whole species of both plants and animals. Also, instead of taking such immediate control over evolution, you can influence it less directly by altering the environment making it hotter, wetter, less lush, etc. This range of options makes Sim Life a game you're likely to be playing for months, maybe even years, down the line and still finding something new to do.

On the down side, I was less impressed by the standard of the graphics with animals being depicted as simple block drawings that move but do not animate. The game speed too is not good, even on the A4000. Those little niggles aside, if the idea of being able to control a whole ecosystem and the evolution of all the life in it appeals to you, Sim Life will draw you in and keep you laying for a long time to come. Now, what if I cross an alligator with a poodle...?
Jon Sloan


CU Amiga, August 1993, p.66