Imagine that the Victorian era saw the first space exploration. Imagine also that late 19th century Britain, France, Belgium and Japan have established colonies on Mars and Venus. And finally, imagine that Thomas Edison was responsible. Still with me? You must have one hell of an imagination.
Space 1889 is a computer version of a paper-and-
The first thing you do is invent some characters on a separate save-game floppy. These can have a variety of skills and backgrounds. The most limiting factor in a character's development is social status, hence the Victorian flavour of the game. The character design is easy enough. There are five different options, and you just work down them. You only control what a character turns out like in general terms, with the computer doing the legwork.
Once you have a party of five or less characters, the game begins. The plot starts relatively innocently during an exhibition to the British Museum in London. A team of German explorers have discovered the whereabouts of Tutankemen's tomb. You overhear and decide to fund an expedition of your own, together with some friends who club in with you (that is the character party you've just designed).
And that's it. The game starts with you have nothing but a pocket of cash (having a career as a master criminal helps enormously) and you have to get an expedition together. Once that quest is completed, others follow: to the moon, Mars and Venus - eventually.
There's plenty of equipment to buy, information to obtain and people to meet before that happens. This is a good idea, as it gives you a chance to get used to icons and menu systems before the party gets into trouble.
Window with a view
Most of the action takes place in a small view window, which gives an overhead look at the character's surroundings. Everything that appears in this view window looks awful - everything else looks pretty good.
Movement is easy but long winded. You put the mouse pointer where you want to go, and then click the button. Easy, except that moving around to any distance takes thousands of button clicks. It would be OK if the game worked fast enough to keep up, but most of the time you're waiting for the party just to get from A to B.
The menuing systems are frustrating. It's very odd that a game will use the mouse for most things, and then insist that you use the cursor and the Return key for specifics (buying and selling items you find in the game are the worst culprits).
Another failing is that the design of the game lets you do virtually everything on one screen. There is nothing wrong with this, but the game gives you a variety of different options, couple this with the ever-
Walk like Egyptians
There are plenty of places to go on planet Earth alone, with various modes of transport available. Everything is based on steam power with the exception of horses, which adds nicely to the atmosphere. It's very odd, though, walking from London to Egypt without ill effect. Even more weird is that it's very difficult once you've hired a steam ship or Zeppelin to actually land anywhere again, apart from the place that you hired it from.
Most of the game play is handled through simple interaction with the different characters you meet in the game. The combat system is simple to use and fairly comprehensive on weapons covered and how they are used.
Most people though will be totally unmoved by Space 1889. The manual contains background information rather than playing guides, the protection system is a code sheet printed in black on midnight blue (unreadable) and playing it will bore you to tears. There might be a real game in there, but it will take days for you to unravel, and the tedium is too much for all but the most hardened role player. A great mythos, but not much fun.