Reviews: Sim Earth

Is it a small world after all?

To enjoy SimEarth, you need to have a lot of imagination. The main game is over quickly; once you figure out how things work, you can direct things fairly easily, and if you do that, it's kind of shallow. What I enjoy about it instead is seeing where things go on their own with minimal interferenceor, at various times, DESPITE my interference. I mean, that IS the point of the Gaia theory the game wants to illustrate in the first place; showing how the planet and everything on it works to stabilize the environment. But obviously, this means there's a lot of waiting involved — the game's main flaw.

First is the Scenarios. They're meant to teach you basic skills in the game, culminating in a series of Final Exam Bosses. Daisyworld is just a visual to explain the Gaia theory clearer — an engine demo, basically — so I don't count it among these.

After that is the Random Planet, where I find the real substance of the game. You have total freedom here to make whatever kind of world you want. You just have to wait for it to happen and nudge it if things destabilize or aren't how you want.

Now, I've played three ports;

The Virtual Console/PC Engine port is the easiest to get. It has a friendly interface, and the voiced Gaia explains the scenarios in detail once you begin them.

The SNES version dumbs descriptions down a bit and has a clunkier interface. But, it has the most in-game help to guide you along with definitions, mechanics, and whatever problems your planet is currently facing. Also, it has the best soundtrack of any version.

The MS-DOS version, while it has primitive graphics and no sound, is mechanically my favorite. What it lacks in looks, it makes up for with features like an option to automatically bring the map to events, which is good if you really want to keep track of your world, and support for multiple save files. Just make sure you find the text of the manual to have ready, because it won't let you do anything if you don't answer the Copy Protection question at the start.

In short, SimEarth is a complex game that requires patience and imagination to enjoy. Not for everyone, but those who CAN enjoy it, I suggest you do.