Laughs in Space

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Space Colony follows the adventures of a wacky group of socially challenged colonists as they attempt to survive the dangerous of hostile planets.

Created by Firefly Studios, the developers of Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader, Space Colony follows the same basic simulation-type theme as their other titles. But, Space Colony is more about simulation than warfare, though there is quite a bit of combat in the game too most of the time. The game is extremely humorous. The colonist’s disparate personalities really play off of one another well, which may leave you tearing your hair out trying to get people to stop fighting and go back to work.

You view your colony from a top-down interface. You need to build things to satisfy your colonist’s desires from their basic needs like a bed to sleep in, to the more advanced entertainment needs like a virtual reality chair, an anti-gravity playground or a hot tub.

The game is mission-based and you will need to complete various goals to proceed to the next level, and perhaps the next planet. You will have to set out on your planet to mine minerals, harvest crops for food, process ore into electronic components and even raise space chickens.

Each colonist has unique skills that can be used inside and outside the base. Some colonists may be worthless with mechanical objects, but can push a broom to keep the place clean. One might be a wiz at mining, but has no idea how to work the computers that produce oxygen within the station. You are challenged with keeping your basic needs of power and oxygen met, while at the same time completing your mission goals. And the entire time you need to be working to keep your colonists happy, because the happier they are, the longer they will work for you and the less time they will need off duty.

Space is also a dangerous place. There are many indigenous creatures to look out for on a planet, rival corporations that want to jump your claim and some outright hostile intelligent life too. So you need to think defensively. You can set up force fields around your base, automatic lasers that target incoming hostiles, aerial defense mines, burn stations to remove hostile plants, cybernetic dogs and soldiers, and when the stuff really hits the fan, certain colonists can also use personal lasers as a last line of defense.

But the true stars of this game are the colonists themselves, which you will get to know intimately as you play. The star is a young woman named Venus Smith, who will be with you on every mission. She is thankfully the most socially adjusted person in the entire crew. Treat her well and she will pull your bacon out of the fire every time.

Others interesting space personalities you will work with or wrestle with include the drunken cow girl Tami, the neat freak Dean Brown, the stupid farmer Billy Bob Perkins, the cooperate VP Barbara Leechworth, the hippie Daisy, the valley girl Candy Simpson, the rapper wannabe Slim, the Norwegian biker dude Stig, the stranded socialite Babette, the inseparable Japanese dancers Hoshi and Kita, the ex-con Nailer, the retired British Army captain Charles Wilmington and the aging old coot Mr. Zeng among others.

Putting all these people in the same facility under normal circumstances is probably not a good idea, but when the tension of staying alive is thrown into the mix, it can be tough. Thankfully, you can build areas where people can be ordered to sit down and work out their problems and detention facilities if things really get out of hand.

Over time you will learn what people like and how to keep each member of your crew happy, though other than Venus you won’t have every member of the crew every time. For example, Hoshi and Kita are excellent workers when they are together, but completely worthless when separated. Mr. Zeng can build some amazing androids that can actually work stations instead of having a human colonist do it, but you need to put his bed near his workstation because he is old and needs to rest a lot.

There are two campaigns to play with Venus. The first is a civilian campaign where you go from planet to planet performing generally peaceful missions. At least that is the idea, though you will still get attacked from time to time and have to work out defenses. The other is a military campaign where the missions are fast and furious and you will have to be on your toes as you partake in offensive operations against both cunning indigenous life and intelligent non-human enemies or rival corporations.

There are several MP3s that come with the game that play during various missions. The music is really good, and you can choose which songs you want to hear if you really like certain ones, or hate certain ones. Plus you can add your own MP3s stored on your hard drive to the playlist.

The character voices are also extremely well done, and help you to get to know your characters better. Listening in on their counseling sessions is really fun, as is listening to them chat with one another in the hallways.

There is also a free-build mode, where you put your colony together and mine and farm and explore as you see fit without really any overreaching goals to pursue. There is even an editor program where you can build your own planets compete with unique challenges and resources. The game has just come out, but presumably it will follow the Stronghold model where players and even the developers will create new levels for the game that can be downloaded and played, amounting to unlimited replay value. That is a good thing, considering the game is completely addictive.

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