Ok, hands up all those who have played Sim City and thought, yeah very nice but I want something a bit more hi-tech. Well now, courtesy of Mindscape, you have something totally new, and different enough to warrant you buying it even if you own Sim City.
Moonbase, predictably, is set in the harsh environment of the moon. Nasa have decided that the Earth is too crowded to support itself any more. The human race needs to branch out if it is to survive and the moon is the ideal place to do it.
It's not very far away - in space terms it's on our doorstep - and with a little work it could be a nice place to live, even a good place to go on holiday. But before all this, some serious work needs to be done to make it hospitable.
First up, you will need to do the property development bit and put up some buildings. Bear in mind that humans need minor things like air, food, water, heat and power to survive up there. All these must be provided as they haven't yet made an extension power cable long enough to reach from Earth to the Moon.
All this isn't cheap and it's your job as station commander to balance the budget, and even try to turn a tidy profit before Nasa decide to cut your subsidy. You have 10 years in which to turn the moon from a hunk of rock into a self-sufficient business.
Once you have started to suss things out up there you can begin to encourage people to go on holiday there. If your factories make any excess of goods you can always sell them back to Earth to make some money to help balance the books.
There are three basic things to keep in mind when playing Moonbase: crew, power and thermal control. Most of the structures in the base will need these, and if it is not working properly then this is where it is going wrong.
If the Nasa subsidy proves to be a little too tight - very likely - you will have to use your bonce to play the export game. You can build factories to produce LLOX or HE3, providing the market is ready to provide the right price of course. You can also send out expeditions to search locations on the Moon's surface for minerals or water. If you find any then you can save money by using this water instead of buying it from Earth.
In order to make all your buildings and projects work you need, of course, enough people to crew them. These crew members need room to sleep so you have to build, power and keep warm enough crew modules for them to live in. After all, on the moon who wants to share living space with one of those nuclear reactor workers who glow in the dark and keep you awake?
Just in case all this wasn't enough to give you endless sleepless nights there are several different kinds of disaster that can happen. These can cause crew fatalities and slow work down to a near standstill, neither of which are very desirable occurrences.
The solar flare is a prime example of such a disaster. The crew will get an eight-minute warning to take cover. Now, if you'd had the sense to build a telescope any losses due to solar flares would be minimised.
The lunar landers that keep the moon supplied have also been know to crash if there aren't enough landing pads for them. And anyone knows that relying on nuclear fusion plants for your energy is dangerous. If you have to use them, make sure you put them in the craters around the Moon's surface for extra safety.
The control method in Moonbase is very easy. Just use the mouse to point, click and use the menus and selectors. Anyone who has played Sim City will get into this method straight away as it is practically identical to the one used in that classic game.
For me, Moonbase kicks Sim City and all its extra disks into touch once and for all. It has been a long time coming (just like Life & Death) but is definitely worth the wait. A lot of thought has obviously gone into Moonbase to make it so damn playable. Hard drive owners will be glad to hear that it is fully installable so this will lessen the wait for the game to load - not that it takes very long anyway.
There are so many different elements to running a successful moon colony that there isn't enough space to go into them all. Let's just say that Sim City experts will do alright up to a point there is a lot more to it than that.
The manual was a pleasant change. There is no way that you can just make a quick start to the game. The manual is a very entertaining read (I read it in bed).
The first section is a little story that gives you loads of clues about how to play the game successfully and will even provide some essential advice. The rest of it is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the controls and what everything does. However after this you are on your own to try and make it work out on the Moon's surface.
I cannot urge you strongly enough to buy this game. It's ace.