Space 1999 was never like this

Moonbase logo

Distributor: Mindscape Price: £35.99

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.


Moonbase logo

Ein Blick in die Lesercharts genügt, um festzustellen, daß sich der Megaklassiker "Sim City" nach wie vor ungebrochener Beliebtheit erfreut. Eine so erfolgreiche Idee mußte natürlich früher oder später einmal kopiert werden - aber wenn man schon abkupfert, sollte man es wenigstens richtig machen!

Moonbase weist genau das gleiche Spielprinzip auf wie "Sim City", nur daß die städtebaulichen Aktivitäten nicht auf der Mutter Erde stattfinden, sondern auf dem Mond. Daraus ergeben sich zwangsläufig etwas andere Probleme und Aufgaben als beim irdischen Vorbild: Beispielsweise muß man Lebenserhaltungssysteme errichten und Erz schürfen, um seine Kolonie am laufen zu halten, darf sich mit Sonneneruptionen und abstürzenden Raumfähren herumschlagen, etc...

Aber in der Praxis fällt der Unterschied kaum ins Gewicht, man hat einfach ständig das Gefühl, vor einer Sparausgabe von "Sim City" zu sitzen.

Was das Mondbesiedlungsprojekt aber endgültig zum Desaster werden läßt, ist die lieblose technische Ausführung: Der Grafik merkt man beim besten Willen nicht an, daß sie vom PC konvertiert wurde, weit eher würde man da einen Spectrum als Ursprung dieser optischen Grausamkeiten vermuten. Zudem ist das Scrolling ungemein langsam und ruckelt höllisch. Der Sound ist noch schlimmer (ultrakurze Titelmusik, ein bißchen Sprachausgabe und ansonsten nur eintöniges Gepiepse), und zu allem Überfluß steigt das Programm gelegentlich aus, produziert Grafikfehler oder läßt sich sonst etwas Teufliches einfallen. Lediglich die Steuerung geht in Ordnung, aber das alleine genügt nun wirklich nicht, um diese Geisterstadt zum Leben zu erwechen... (mm)

Moonbase logo

When even a whole city isn't big enough, the sky's the limit...

You've built your own city in Sim City. You've gone on to run the world in Sim Earth (well, you have if you've got a PC) and countless other games. There's only one place left unoppressed. It's time to glance warily skywards, screw on your helmet and head for... the moon.

It's cold, quiet and covered in craters, but in no time at all you'll have discovered the necessary combination of menus and icons you'll need to continue, started smoothing things out and shoved up buildings all over the place. These can be picked from a wide range of structures, from habitation modules and laboratories to recreation facilities and greenhouses (for growing food).

What you put where is up to you, but there ought to be a method to your madness - everything'll grind to a halt unless it's plumbed into a decent smattering of power generators and heat extractors. Manpower is important too. There needs to be enough people to run everything, and they've all got to be accommodated and fed. The other headache is finance. To start of with you receive an annual grant from NASA, but this soon dries up so you'll need to become self-sufficient as fast as poss. Cash has to be generated by building mining and manufacturing facilities, and these in turn need to be staffed and powered and... it's a complete nightmare, it really is.

Sounds a bit boring, doesn't it? But it's not! As with all these 'build a world' games, Moonbase is deceptively addictive. Once you've worked out what's going on (the manual's not terribly helpful here, mainly consisting of a dire novella interspersed with tips and a short summary at the back) it's almost impossible to put it down.

There's an enormous amount of depth to it, and everything's been finely balance so you're constantly teetering on the brink of disaster. I've only got two major criticisms: a) as your creation gets bigger, the monthly update slows down horrendously, and b) having built a fully self-sufficient moonbase, and filled in the whole playing area with bits and pieces (which doesn't actually take very long), all the fun suddenly evaporates and you're left with a very basic trading game.

Moonbase is unfortunate in that it slips so neatly into the Sim City category of games, and therefore has such high standards set for it before it even begins. Not that it's in with bad company or anything, it just isn't anything new. I'd like to say 'it's out of this world', but that would be a slight overstatement (and a crap joke to finish on).

Moonbase logo

Ever since 1969, when Neil Armstrong took 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' by planting his size 12 spaceboots all over the lunar landscape, the building of a lunar colony has been the inevitable goal of a generation of NASA eggheads. Unfortunately, things are running a tad behind schedule, with little chance making an appearance this side of the 21st Century.

In the meantime, US softco, Mindscape, have picked up the challenge of lunar exploration and come up with a complex simulation involving the construction and management of a lunar colony. Moonbase has been developed in conjunction with Wesson Industries and KDT Advanced Systems Group, the latter having worked closely with NASA in the planning and logistics of the USA's prototype lunar base. With such expertise behind the game's development, there's no denying Moonbase's credentials or authenticity and, indeed, the hefty manual which comes with the game only serves to reinforce the research that's gone into its development.

The mouse-driven simulation starts with a barren moonscape (randomly generated each time a new game begins) on which a lunar colony has to be constructed. The main area of the screen is given over to a map of the immediate vacinity with a special 'Zoom Out' option for a bird's eye view of the entire area.

The game looks and plays like Maxis' Sim City, with a bank of icons representing various buildings, vehicles and other equipment which you can buy and place on the moon's surface. Most of the units snap together like Lego blocks once they've been positioned on screen, but not all can be bought straight away as funds are severely limited at first.

Most units need connecting up to an energy supply, so a photovoltaic array or fission reactor is an essential first purchase. Unlike Earth, the Moon has no atmosphere and generated heat cannot be carried away by convection. A battery of radiators are needed to syphon off excess heat and keep temperatures stable. If either fail to work, become disconnected or are insufficient to meet demand, then the moonbase will be crippled, production halted and, eventually, fed-up crew members will pack their bags and head back to Earth.

Initial funding for the project comes from NASA and, depending on the colony's scientific worth, this will slowly decrease over a ten-year period until it finally dries up altogether. This obviously dictates the speed at which the colony develops - initial emphasis will concentrate on small-scale development with money-making mining interests taking precedent over recreational or scientific considerations. Once a strong cash-flow has been developed by mining minerals such as helium and oxygen, the infrastructure of the base can be expanded with working and living conditions suitably expanded.

Moonbase contains a strong trading element. To become self-supporting, you'll need to fully exploit the Moon's natural resources, refine them and sell them on the open market. The game lets you trade in any of the five commodities, ranging from water, helium and oxygen to electronic components and manufactured goods. However, a careful eye has to be kept on the financial markets because if you sell at the wrong time you could lose a fortune. To help, the sim provides a five year history of trading conditions and, once a communications beacon has been set up, the current prices of each commodity will be shown on a ticker-tape display at the top of the screen. It's not just conditions on the Moon which determine the price. A depression or war on Earth will also affect the price you can get for your raw materials or finished products.

Helium and oxygen can be mined straight away, whereas electronic and manufacturing installations cost megabucks and are best left until you bank balance is in a healthy state of affairs. Water, in the form of ice deposits, is almost impossible to find, let alone mine.

A number of random disasters can befall the colony such as a lunar lander crashing into the base, aphids destroying crops, or a nuclear meltdown wiping out all personnel and leaving the land uninhabitable. Bad management can also lead to costly strikes over working and living conditions, world markets may crash, and failure to meet strict re-supply needs could leave the base crippled.

Moonbase is a very complex simulation which requires the player to take account of a whole host of information and statistics in the planning of the colony. Sadly, the game is something of a flawed masterpiece and can be frustrating to play. As the manual freely admits, not every randomly generated scenario will contain water deposits. This wouldn't normally be a problem until you realise the soaring cost of importing water and the crippling effects this has on your budget. I defy anyone to balance the books when nine tenths of costs go in providing the workforce with liquid refreshment.

Another niggle is the constant interruption in play due to the program constantly updating itself. As the base grows so the calculations. The simulations makes grow ever more complex and the need to update itself grows ever more frequent. After a few years, the gameplay is interrupted almost every few seconds which is a constant annoyance. The lack of any pre-set scenarios a la Sim City is also an unfortunate omission. Surely the game lays itself open to all manner of scenarios ranging from two competing superpowers in a race to develop the Moon's dwindling resources to NASA having to redevelop a bankrupt colony.

Moonbase is an enjoyable simulation that'll certainly last the test of time, but there's just a nagging feeling that a little bit more could have been done with it. Hopefully, the data disks shouldn't be too far behind...

  • More than 600 million people watched the moonlanding on TV, the largest collective audience ever to see an historic event (bar Chaz and Di taking the nuptial vows, that is).
  • Although the famous Apollo 11 mission was just one week long, the returning spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean only 10 seconds behind schedule.
  • Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became instant heroes after their successful moon landing, but who remembers Charles Conrad and Alan Bean? The pari were involved in the second moon landing in November 1969, but the mission was blacked out when television transmissions failed to work and so have gone largely unremembered.
  • The moon is gradually moving away from the Earth at the rate of 0.1 inch every revolution. In about 7 billion years we won't be able to see it with the naked eye. Just thought you'd like to know.
  • Because of the tidal effect the moon exerts on Earth, our day bacomes a second longer every 62,500 years. 400 million years ago the day was only 22 hours and 13 minutes long.
  • The gravitational pull of the moon affects the fluid surrounding the brain in the same way as it affects eartly tides. Coincidentally (or maybe not!), scientific tests have proved that when there's a full moon, people's behaviour becomes more erratic and unpredictable, hence the term 'lunacy'.

Moonbase logo

Mindscape/£35.76/Out Now

Amiga review

Paul: Fancy living in a place with no atmosphere and low gravity beer? If so, this could be the game for you, being a space station simulator on which you've got to oversee the development of an economic community on the moon.

Moonbase is basically Sim City on the moon (but not as good). You have to build up resources, balance population growth against inefficiency and overcrowding and so on. It's mouse/icon controlled, with animated but fairly minimal graphics and limited sound.

The mouse control is a bit wobbly, and neither the graphics nor the animation are up to the standard of Sim City, but more importantly there's less to do. Apart from the odd strike to quell, things just trog along. Your budgets may get better or worse, but it doesn't seem to affect the running of the station.

An inferior version of Sim City which, with the arrival of the Sim City Future City Data Disk becomes fairly pointless.