Pentium 2 350 or better
64MB of RAM
8MB 3D Accelerated Graphics card
(Theme Park etc.) games have always proved very popular but I have to say that
every game since Theme Hospital has left me very disappointed. Theme Park World
was very poor and Theme Park Inc. was only marginally better. In my opinion
Theme Hospital was the best of the bunch with its addictive gameplay and sense
of humour. Now why am I going on about these games when this review is about
Startopia? Well I can honestly say that Startopia has all the ingredients of
the classic Theme Hospital and with those ingredients Mucky Foot has created
a superb game that shames anything that Bullfrog have turned out over the last
The objective of the game is to run an efficient space station. This is done by placing buildings that are essential and/or are money spinners. The real twist with the gameplay though is that specific aliens are needed for certain buildings. An example of this is the Grey who are medical experts. Only a Grey can work in a sick bay and operate the equipment in there. For you to attract a Grey, your facilities have to appeal to them. Your station has three decks, one of which is the engineering deck which contains the mundane buildings like the sick bay and energy collector. You also have the entertainment deck which contains the love nest and the disco and hotels etc. all the things that keep the aliens entertained. Finally you have the bio-deck which attempts to offer a natural, open air experience to the aliens. A wide range of controls are available to tailor the bio-deck into a particular style. You can make it into a mountain range or a swamp, it is completely upto you.
thing that will strike you about Startopia is the quality of the text feedback.
Everything in the game is subtitled. The tutorial has been wonderfully done
as it is completely text based and it allows you to move at your own pace as
the instructions have to be clicked on with the right mouse button to progress
to the next topic. This means that you never feel like you're being rushed and
have time to take everything in. Another example of this is that the tutorial
spots if you got a little ahead of yourself and advises you to restart that
particular tutorial; if you are lost, it's a nice touch. All the messages you
get in the game come in the form of dialogue boxes that have to be clicked on
for them to disappear so there's no problems here either. There is nothing given
verbally that isn't given textually. The intro video doesn't contain any speech
so subtitling is irrelevant here. If you right click on any of the aliens that
are roaming your space station you get (amongst other things) a series of icons
and clicking on these icons (that denote such things as whether they require
sanitation, medical assistance, if they are bored etc.) lets you find their
opinion/answer. The aliens either shake their heads or gesture with their hands
so again the deaf gamer is kept well informed. The F1 key can be pressed when
the mouse pointer is over an object/building/alien and this gives you a dialogue
box which gives a full description of the object/building/alien and this is
a very useful feature given that the manual is sparse on facts.
Graphically, Startopia is the business. You can zoom right up close to the aliens and they still look fantastic. It is very easy to forget what you are supposed to be doing and get carried away just watch the aliens working around or dance in the disco. The graphics play a huge part in giving the game its atmosphere and Mucky Foot deserve praise for creating a game of such beauty. All the different rooms look great and the buildings that you can place on the pleasure deck are brilliant. Lighting effects have been used well and look stunning, particularly in the aforementioned disco.
The gameplay is fantastic and the pure addictiveness of it masks the great depth and challenge of the game. Keeping a balance in your space station is quite a challenge but the whole atmosphere keeps you glued to your monitor. The single player game is based around a series of missions the first couple of which are an extension of the tutorial. When you are done with the missions there is a sandbox (free form) mode that enables you to play either against AI opponents or by yourself. You can make a sandbox mode as easy or as difficult as you wish through a variety of options such as the amount of energy you begin with or the difficulty of pleasing you resident aliens. Multiplayer sees you and your opponents starting at different ends of the space station with the goal of becoming the sole owner of the whole station. Battles can be had on the space station and although they are not that inspiring it is good to see that they are there.
The few problems that Startopia does have are to do with its interface and the poor manual. To alter the price of facilities you have to right click on them and alter the price. This is fine at the beginning but later on in the game it is a pain to go round all the facilities. Accessing the tech, hiring staff and altering the price of the facilities should have all been possible by one central menu but it isn't. The manual is quite poor in that it doesn't explain the details that you want it to. Icons appear over the aliens head (like they did over the patients in Theme Hospital) but unlike in Theme Hospital were you had the icons explained to you in the documentation, in Startopia there is nothing. The manual really tells you nothing that can't be learned from the tutorials.
Startopia is a class act and despite the few niggles with the manual and the interface the game is highly recommended by Deaf Gamers. Months of gaming pleasure are to be had with this title and I sincerely hope that it sells by the lorry load and Eidos commission Startopia 2. The 'Theme' games have had their day and Startopia is ready to replace them in style.
Click to goto the screenshot gallery >>>
Overall Game Rating: 9/10 Almost perfect, Startopia is an excellent game.
Quality of text: 9/10 In game the text is perfect but the manual is a little lacking.
Graphics: 10/10 Brilliant. The atmosphere of the game is helped no end by the quality of the visuals.
Interface: 7/10 It needs a centralised menu from which to make all the decisions.
Gameplay: 10/10 Very addictive. It has that classic quality about it.