Super Fun Mega Nutshell Review Bonanza Time

So many games, so little time. As the bell tolls and our glorious planet Earth spins giddily on its relentless axis, seagulls follow a trawler into the ocean, eager for answers. But what are the questions? Who is the eggman? Who is the walrus? Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess. Goo goo g’joob.

With that in mind, here’s a round-up of some recent releases I’ve been playing, and what I think about them, communicated via the power of written words. In a nutshell. Semolina pilchard.


StarDrive is what we call a single-player, 4x space strategy game. You know the drill: choose a race, select attributes and begin the game resident of a humble, minimally populated, technologically basic planet and exploit available natural resources to then develop, evolve and expand into the surrounding universe. Along the way, meet friendly, apathetic and not-so-friendly aliens, who will test your diplomatic skills and either become trusted allies or bothersome foes.

The goal, as always, is to colonise and dominate the universe until you become a fearsome Goliath of expansion. Just like Gabe. Only in space. Without knives.

What I really like about StarDrive is the huge amount of flexibility and choice available. The player can immerse as deeply into galactic management as desired. Universe size, victory conditions and race attributes are all tweakable. As well as the plethora of functions which can be fully automated; in fact, entire planets, once colonised, can be controlled by AI. The type of evolutionary path a planet will take can even be selected.

If you want to delve as deeply as possible into the management systems available, every aspect of your race’s evolution can be carefully steered. One very unusual aspect of this impressive micro-management is the ability to design your own space craft, which can then be produced en masse. For myself, this was the most confusing part of the whole game. Successful ship designing requires specific vehicle parts to be placed in correct locations of a sort of template, taking into consideration power requirements and connectivity. Though, admittedly, I haven’t attempted ship building since the beta, and the tutorials have improved vastly since then. I’m sure that with a little perseverance I will be banging out my own original craft like a cosmic Henry Ford. If, like me, you are lazy when it comes to ship design, you can, of course, use the stock designs, which are more than sufficient.

The alien races encountered are idiosyncratic and interesting. Diplomacy options seem to work well and other races appear to remain true to their characteristics. Wonderfully, spies can be trained and sent on various devious missions to undermine your enemies. That’s if they don’t get caught and executed.

StarDrive looks great; the art is not photo-realistic, but more sort of high-quality anime. Animations, sounds and music are all polished and enhance the game mechanics. In my twelve hour playing experience I encountered zero bugs, which is amazing, considering most of that was spent in beta. It’s clear that this is a game developed with passion and respect for the genre. Worth noting is the ability to zoom in and out, from close-up views of planets and ships, to the entire universe, with a simple scroll of the mouse-wheel.

Battles take place in real-time, and individual ships can even be directly controlled by the player, or left for the AI to manage. Landing parties are also controlled by either player or AI, mostly to discover mysteries and take control of planets.

I Imagine that anyone considering buying StarDrive will have already played a few colonisation type games. Be that in space or on Earth. If so, StarDrive will provide exactly what you might expect: hours upon hours of entertaining, highly immersive strategy gaming which will satisfy your desires to explore and conquer the unknown. For such an immense game, though, I can’t help but feel these few words aren’t truly doing the depth and complexity of StarDrive justice. Do yourselves a favour, and just buy it. You will not be disappointed.

Developer: Zero Sum Games
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release Date: 26 Apr 2013

Official Site


Surgeon Simulator 2013

Surgeon Simulator 2013 puts the player in control of an apparently one-handed surgeon, tasked with performing vital, life-saving operations, such as heart, liver, lung and brain transplants. The life-saving hand is controlled using five keyboard keys, for finger manipulation, in conjunction with mouse movements and clicks. Sounds complicated? It is.

In fact, it’s a bit like playing a digital, much more insane version of the popular board game Operation, only instead of having a pair of tweezers to remove organs, we have an ultra-sensitive fake hand. Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

I’ve managed to successfully perform a heart transplant, so far. After many failed attempts and quite a while spent becoming comfortable with the controls. Simply inserting a floppy disc into my virtual desktop PC took me two real-life days.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is a classy casual game full of good humour and silliness. There is no attempt at realism, so don’t be thinking this will provide any sort of education. Operations tend to involve smashing or sawing the unfortunate patient’s ribs to bits and then haphazardly thrusting a scalpel in the direction of vital organs with all the skill of a drunken bus driver.

The 3D graphics look great, sound design is polished and the soundtrack trance-endicingly ambient. Unusual and unique fun it is, and worth the few pounds it costs for the experience.

Developer: Bossa Studios
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Release Date: 19 Apr 2013

Official Site


Game Dev Tycoon

This Indie release provides exactly what its name suggests: a game development management simulation. It doesn’t dig too deep with regards to micro-management, and realism is far, far away. Fun it is, though. You begin the game based in a modest, residential garage, where your vidya dev dreams blossom. The aim of the game is to develop popular games, make profit and research new technology, thus, enabling better games and more profit. Just like real life. I think.

The most fun part of Game Dev Tycoon is creating new games. This has been implemented incredibly well. Every aspect of the new game can be chosen and experience will increase your coding skills to level-up. Hilariously, following the release of a new game, you receive the game-press reviews, which often totally trash your precious, hard-work. Again, just like real-life.

This is a really enjoyable single-player game and one I feel certain that I will keep coming back to. The 2D art is cute and the soundtrack mostly a strange, yet pleasant type of smooth-jazz. Possibly. Game Dev Tycoon is a budget release and worth every penny.

Developer: Greenheart Games
Publisher: Greenheart Games
Release Date: 28 Apr 2013

Official Site


This entry was posted by Ian Brown.

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