Space HoRSE attempts to return players to the glory days of eighties computer gaming. Space HoRSE (Holistic Robotic Slave Engineer) honors the 80s classic M.U.L.E., supports multiplayer games up to four players, includes 45 random events, and offers several species including Brainy Crane, HoRSE Clone, Lumpty, Pink Matter, and Space Rover. More species are made available for download through the Space HoRSE website.
It's not often that you encounter a game that looks like your high school programming assignment. Then again, it's not every day that you have the misfortune of playing a game as shockingly conceived as Space HoRSE. There's not much to say about this game except that it's just not very fun to play. Not a single element of this turn-based strategy title comes across as even remotely interesting.
As the story goes, the Decoo Corporation sponsors four teams in a game of sorts. The objective: to create a thriving, self-sufficient colony in 12 months, each month represented by one turn.
In case you're wondering about the acronym, HoRSE stands for "Holistic Robotic Slave Engineers", the multipurpose robots instrumental to colonization.
Each turn is partitioned into three phases: Land Claim, Development and Auction. After nominating a player avatar and team color, you are required to choose a square of land to develop, while your three opponents do likewise.
During Development, with the game timer ticking in the background, you control your avatar to purchase and install HoRSE's which harvest the four resources: Food, Power, Titanium or Zirconium.
When time is up, the player enters the Auction phase during which he may trade resources with opponents. Additionally, a player may sell a plot of land for a tidy profit, useful in the later stages of the game where the most fruitful tracts of land have been claimed. After twelve turns, the team with the most successful colony wins.
Although its turn-based nature suggests planned action and economic strategy, by forcing the player to adhere to this predefined game structure, Space HoRSE comes across as more of a cheap board game.
It doesn't help that the cycle of land claim, development and auction is depressingly dull, made worse by the presence of a timer which turns planetary colonization into a game of musical chairs.
And apart from gathering and trading resources, there's nothing else to the game. It's like the harvesting component of an RTS title alone or perhaps a small-scale Civilization without the diplomacy or cultural conflict.
Despite its massive shortcomings, there may be strategy purists out there who revel in this kind of fare. But even they'd be hard-pressed to get past the atrocious production values; for a 2002 game, Space HoRSE looks about ten years too late. The midi tracks are gratingly annoying, the graphics poorly drawn, the Windows "ding" sound makes an appearance, the color scheme is plain evil, the list goes on...
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