ONCE I attended a lecture by a well known professor of astronomy who prophesised that hellfire and brimstone will soon be upon us. The Solar System is surrounded by a shell of material known as the Oort Cloud from which comets probably come. Every 30 million years this cloud is perturbed by something massive, with the result that a great hail of debris rains down on the Sun. Some hits Earth, which explains the Ice Age and the extinction of the dinosaurs.
To compound the danger there are no less than 40,000 asteroids whose orbits cross our planet's path. The learned gentleman concluded that Earth was due to be done in within the next 30,000 years and that all nations should forget such trivia as defence spending and the International Monetary Fund and instead club together to build a filthy great laser to zap any lumps of rock that come too close.
And you thought computer games were abstract and had nothing to do with real life.
According to Electric Dreams the end of the world will be rather earlier than expected: 2.200 AD. Some people, including yourself, will have escaped to the Moon where your task will be to colonise the Solar System.
The ultimate aim is re-colonising Earth, using various pieces of equipment to extract useful material from the Moon's crust. With this you will make craft which can be sent to the asteroid belt for more materials with which to build the ships that can colonise worlds.
The main screen shows a grandiose 3D view of the planets moving around the Sun. Clicking on a planet zooms in and shows its moons. Clicking again shows whether the planet is colonised and, if it is not, whether it is worth doing so.
There is a row of icons across the top of the screen, the most important being the Moon base. Here you start with nothing save a small stock of minerals and a little power from a generator. You begin by researching and building a larger generator, which allows you to produce more power and thus turn on your mining equipment, which allows you to dig for the raw materials which you need to produce even bigger generators, which give you enough power to build craft that can leave the Moon's surface and report on other planets, which allows you to build life support systems...
Pretty soon, you have a beehive of activity, with all sorts of things being built and several expeditions to other planets going on at the same time. There is a save option, which is welcome, because a single game can easily take days. Needless to say, everything does not go smoothly. If you build too many generators too quickly they will explode and you will have to start again. You have Martians as enemies and will often have to defend against them. But no two games are the same, and you may well manage to get probes off the ground before threats are sent over the electronic bulletin board.
As a games reviewer you quickly learn to detect an ST port with your eyes close and fur on your tongue. Millennium 2.2 is yet another. Basically, it is an infinitely expanded variant of Kingdom, the golden oldie which had you balancing the books of an ancient dynasty while ensuring that the population did not get too restless and depose you. But the good presentation and huge variety of options brings it band up to date.
Despite the could-do-better graphics and sound, plus the extremely terse instructions, Millennium 2.2 is a surprisingly addictive game. It grows on you, provided you stick with it. It should keep you frustrated for months.