Some games are laudable for taking a moral standpoint, being educational and generally just trying to be nice. SpaceStationSim is one of them but, for all of its intentions, it’s difficult to recommend a product that feels amateurish and half-complete, no matter how good the intentions that have gone into its creation.
The scenario is simple: you’ve been tasked with building the International Space Station and keeping your astronauts busy, stimulated and alive. It’s like a lunar version of The Sims without the charm, professional sheen or depth.
The gameplay is simple enough. You begin by creating a specialist to work in the station and sent them up into orbit. Take on challenges and tasks – such as various types of scientific research – and you’ll be granted more astronauts, further modules for the ISS and room to grow. Expansion is the goal but, sadly, the treadmill-like gameplay offers little fun – or incentive – to keep going.
There’s just not enough, though, in terms of challenge, diversity or interface, to encourage you to keep going. The interface is incredibly basic, with little information easily accessible about your astronauts or station. Any information that is given is badly labelled, and screens indicating the status of the ISS are washy and uncertain.
Whereas The Sims took the pressure off by giving its citizens a modicum of artificial intelligence, SpaceStationSim goes the opposite way. You’ve got to constantly look after your ‘intelligent’ workers. They’re incapable of managing their basic motor skills by themselves – so you’re often breaking off from tasks to feed them and make them visit the loo – and you have to direct them to experiments, too.
This treadmill of looking after your Space-Sims soon degenerates into a constant cycle: make sure they’re ok, run another experiment, earn some cash, buy some more stuff. Then do it all again. There’s little variety or diversity in the game, and this gets boring very quickly.
The graphics are just as bad as the gameplay. Astronauts lack detail – they’re crafted from a handful of blocky, soulless polygons – and the space station itself is just as poor. It’s just incredibly plain and disheartening when there’s so much better out there.
The best aspect of SpaceStationSim is, like the worst documentaries, the educational part. Great care has obviously gone into recreating the correct modules, experiments, procedures and names of the ISS and the five space agencies who contribute to it.
For this, the game should be applauded: a huge amount of effort has gone into making sure SpaceStationSim is accurate and contains a huge amount of detail, and there’s plenty here, in theory, to appeal to younger users who are fascinated by space.
However, the amount of time devoted to making this edutainment title has concentrated on the educational aspect at the expense of the game. It’s bland, boring, limited and poorly executed – in terms of both gameplay and graphics – so we can only recommend it to the younger adventurer as an introduction to the genre.