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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Sierra

The year is 2385 and galactic worlds are starved, their economy and trade connections ruined. Once, when the Madorian race produced FTL (Faster Than Light) engines for inter-galactic spaceships, the galaxy was prospering. But Madorians disappeared, taking away their inventions and causing galactic life and wealth to stall. Finally, FTL travel was once again made possible and the five remaining races (you representing one of them) joined in a rush to gain financial dominance over the vast galactic community. Can you outmanage the competitor races and build the best cosmic trading empire?

A game with very accurately presented data, Space Bucks is done in 100% SVGA. The introduction is a nice computer-generated sequence, and throughout the game once in a while on a stale map-screen there appear boxes with news-report-like movie sequences, which add an extra good look to the visual presentation of the game. All your virtual managerial operations in Space Bucks take place while one of two cosmic musical compositions is pleasing your ears. You can toggle between the compositions, digitized speech and sound effects, which are few but enough to indicate your major actions in the gaming process.

Management of the numerous buttons, indicators and arrows in Space Bucks requires a mouse. The game window itself is smaller than the screen and is centered, leaving the Windows environment around it uncovered, which somewhat interferes with the player's in-the-game perception. Generally, the impression of some extremely complex cockpit is created, where you might be sitting by the computer monitors in your starbase and "switching the screens" when another frame or chart appears in the game. At the top of the game window you'll find the option menus, from which you are able to load, save, or start a new game, as well as go to the Bank, the Stock Market, and your enterprise maintenance/evaluation screens.

The majority of indicators on the main screens are symbolized by some object (red cross for medicine, hamburger for food, etc.), and at first it may seem extremely hard to remember the exact meaning of each. A Quick Reference Card (QRC) is provided to help the player in the beginning, along with the mouse Info Bar at the bottom of the screen, which gives a quick summary of an aimed symbol's feature. I found it somewhat difficult to read any text in the game, primarily due to a surprisingly small font size, thought it didn't take me too long to adapt to this peculiarity.

The game environment represents a variety of data screens and maps, putting you in charge of everything: from the number of "space bucks" per share of your stock to deciding what planet will become your next target market. Space Bucks is a game of thought and careful management of available resources. You start with a starport on your home planet and one ship. Your goal is to expand your enterprise. The right decision would be to settle on other planets. But nothing is easy in our life, so why should it be any different in galactic trade? Can you afford the aliens' planet's rent requests? Do they really want your toxic waste facilities on their land and will they prefer the quality of your weapons to that of others sellers? Another whole issue is your inter-planetary fleet, and you will have to consider such real-life details as ship models, weapons, hull type, shields, cargo capacity, engine technology, range... but those are only the first steps. There is limited time for you to build your empire - until the year 2500, and the clock is running. Yes, everything is at least twice as complicated in the game, and that is why Space Bucks represents a futuristic trading-company sim that is as real as modern business gets today. This is a serious game is for those wishing to spend months dealing with 3 difficulty levels, 5 alien civilizations, 12 planet and 12 starport structure types, and an infinity of executive decisions. One careless mistake may be fatal for your enterprise! Not button-pressing speed or visual eyeball-tearing effects, but mind and wits are the weapons that bring superiority and fame in Space Bucks.

Pros: An original idea, and more factors affecting the game process than one could consider, make this game a challenge.

Cons: The procedures and controls may be a bit too complex. The text is somewhat difficult to read. There are no sound volume controls. Some gamers may not like the way minimum action and special effects is balanced by maximum concentration on tax returns. And, unfortunately, I am one of them.

--Andrew Morozov