I've been looking forward to playing Spacebase Startopia for quite some time and now that I have, I must say that I'm impressed.
Spacebase Startopia is a simulation game where you try to create the best space station that you can in order to attract alien tourists. You do so by working on 3 levels that can each have up to 8 areas which form a circle. Panning the camera through your space station can be quite a lot to take in, especially after you've unlocked each area and have built up a bustling little city in the process. Anyway, the 3 layers are vastly different as the main Sub Deck level will have critical components like recycling plants that convert garbage into energy, medical clinics for sick visitors, and factories where you can exchange materials for useful goods. Speaking of which, materials are cultivated in the Bio Deck where you can terraform to allow for different plants to grow. Lastly, the Fun Deck is where you can place arcades, discos, and such to entertain your guests and make some energy (Spacebase Startopia's currency) in the process.
All of this comes together to create a very interesting dynamic. Although you could draw parallels to games like RollerCoaster Tycoon, the multi-level approach is very unique and makes for an engaging formula. With that in mind, Spacebase Startopia is rather arcade-like in its gameplay as its management mechanics definitely aren't as in-depth as something like Planet Coaster. For a console gamer, this setup is actually much appreciated as you can easily boot up Spacebase Startopia, complete a stage or 2, and not have to worry about pouring a ton of effort into tweaking a bunch of in-depth elements. Of course, if you're a hardcore genre veteran who enjoys diving into the nitty gritty details of every facet of their creations then you probably won't like Spacebase Startopia as much as I did.
Another aspect that I love about Spacebase Startopia is its campaign because each stage presents a clever and unique scenario that's great fun to master. This is amplified through the implementation of bonus objectives as well as rewarding trophies / achievements that task you with completing certain challenges and beating levels within various criteria. I also think it's awesome that many elements are streamlined such as the fact that you don't have to place objects within rooms if you don't want to. Instead, you can simply use a blueprint of a premade room if you want to splurge on a large and intricate design without the need to manually fiddle around.
Although these streamlined aspects are welcome, getting used to Spacebase Startopia's controls does take quite a while on console. In fact, I hit a few walls while learning its ins and outs which was mildly annoying but once I got over that hurdle and it all started to click, I was able to work on my space station with ease. Of course, it also required a bit of experimentation to reach this point because even though the tutorials are great, they don't quite explain everything so you'll still have to learn the odd detail on your own.
Finally, I'm happy to say that Spacebase Startopia is an absolutely hilarious game. From its sarcastic AI that guides you through the tutorials and campaign to the cutscenes that show the back-stories of various alien species; I laughed a lot as I played through stage after stage. The funniest moments are showing just how silly the aliens are as it also reflects human behaviour quite well. For example, one planet was torn apart by war because the folks on each half of the planet thought that the grass was greener on the other half. Meanwhile, a couple of alien species started an epic multi-century battle because one was gifted flowers by the other which they took as a threat because they love flowers and they thought the fact that the flowers were dead sent a hostile message.
It may not be for hardcore simulation fans but folks like me who enjoy a more arcade-style sim experience will find Spacebase Startopia to be quite a delightful gem of a game. Plus, it's downright hilarious!
- + Enjoyable simulation gameplay that feels arcade-like in its stage-based campaign
- + Great sense of humour throughout
- + Lots of streamlined mechanics
- - Genre fans may not like its lack of depth
- - Controls take a while to get used to
- - Not everything is explained well