With so many resource management games on the market, you'd think that designers eventually would stumble on marketing a game that incorporates all the good points of a business simulation. PowerHouse comes close to being that game but for an inexplicable reason one of the most important and obvious ingredients is missing which knocks the game down a peg or two. In this case the oversight isn't even related to game play itself but rather to the "how to" category. The game is somewhat complex, especially during the learning curve, and requires time to understand all the salient factors that help mesh all the concepts together. Unfortunately and probably unintentionally, the designers left out a crucial component, namely in-game support. And to exacerbate the problem, the printed manual is next to hopeless in providing details on how to get the most out of the game, thus leaving the player no option but to employ hit and miss or trial and error tactics until he or she figures out how to play to best advantage.
Otherwise, PowerHouse comes close to being a terrific energy-based resource management strategy-laden game. At the core of the game is a relevant short term future glimpse at a worldwide energy crisis that threatens disastrous consequences for mankind if not rectified. Thus the international governing body (the UN) creates a competition between four mega-corporations which is designed to solve the energy crisis in the most efficient way and ultimately to protect mankind from the depletion of all major natural resources such as oil, coal and gas. The player manages one of the four corporations and the competition is fierce and even cutthroat on occasion. There's really not much to complain about when it comes to evaluating PowerHouse's interface, graphics or sound. All are handled with care and the final windows-based product is a handsome, sharp, eminently playable game. If only you didn't have to waste considerable time and aborted starts just learning the ropes of this complex effort. It's too bad that many players will lose interest and abandon the game before reaching the point where the game becomes fun instead of frustrating work.
Bottom line: be prepared to expend considerable energy (not the world's, but yours) and some guesswork during the early stages of the game. Have patience, grit your teeth and forge ahead until you reach the highly playable and rewarding phases of PowerHouse. As you build your empire, many options open up as you discover new technologies and practical applications of carefully researched strategies. Game play is interspersed with quality video sequences and a cleverly designed information system is employed for keeping you abreast of current news and competitors' progress. PowerHouse is a tough game to learn because of the lack of cohesive instructions and a tough game to master once you do understand the inner workings. But if you like challenging business simulations, PowerHouse is worth a look.
Graphics: Good static screen and map displays, clear, sharp and precise. Multimedia sequences are good, overall a satisfying visual presentation.
Sound: Somewhat unnecessary in a resource management game but fairly pleasing nonetheless.
Enjoyment: Frustrating lack of meaningful help (either in-game or manual based) to get you over the learning phase. However, once comfortable with the knowledge of "how to" play, PowerHouse is filled with challenges, good AI competition, a high degree of realistic complexity and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon winning.
Replay Value: Once learned, highly adjustable through options and randomness to ensure replay value.
After simulating the automobile industry with Detroit, Impressions turns its attention to the oft-neglected but imminently crucial energy sector. Here you must micro-manage power plants and lay power lines across the country. The game's over-ambitious attempt to incorporate all manners of energy and a lot of economic variables result in a confusing game with a weak AI, dubious economic model, and boring gameplay where random events hardly occur and nothing seems to be going on.
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