Reviewed: March 8, 2006
Released: November 22, 2005
I have never been a big fan of the build-a-world “Sim” genre of gaming – SimCity, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, The Sims. Frankly, with a full-time job, a family of five, a house and two cars…well, I do so much real world “Sim”ing, that I really don’t care about whether I have enough cotton candy stands to keep my zoo guests happy, or whether or not Jethro and Julie have started another darned fire in their Sim kitchen while they were off being ambulance drivers.
But every now and then, a sim game comes along that doesn’t take itself too seriously, has some cool scenarios, and doesn’t require a ton of time investment. And one of these has come around – and on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade, no less: Outpost Kaloki X.
Sort of a remake of a year-old PC shareware title, but with a whole lot of extra goodness – Outpost Kaloki X is yet another budget-priced winner in the ever-growing Xbox 360 Live Arcade stable of games. The full game lets you save your progress (including unlocked achievements and gamer pictures), and includes:
Outpost Kaloki X puts the gamer in the shoes of a developer tasked with building, managing and maintaining a series of galactic space stations that basically serve as futuristic shopping malls. The goal is to make the right series of decisions to generate enough cash flow to not only expand the business, but also to maintain, repair, and restock the space station – and still pull in some profit when all is said and done.
The gamer is forced to balance the needs and wants of the customers with the needs and wants of the space stations. It is a fine line of equilibrium between making the customers happy and making sure that your space station does not run itself into a state of disrepair.
Each of space station begins roughly as a sphere with any number of empty ports – or nodes – branching out from the central nucleus. Each of the nodes can house either an attraction to meet customers’ needs – social, science, trade, information or nature – or one of the many maintenance and power generation modules to keep the attractions running.
Within each of these customer attractions, gamers are allowed to set sliders that balance the scales of price, quality, overhead costs, and power consumption. The results of which will affect the overall customer attractiveness, and thereby the bottom line cash flow – but at the cost of maintenance.
For instance, one might want to fill a node with an “information” attraction such as a newspaper stand. The gamer can then select the newspaper stand, and set the slider to either increase or decrease the quality of newspaper he will sell. Carrying high-quality paper will cost more up-front, but it will also draw select customers willing to pay a little more for a high-quality paper – but the risk is alienating the much larger populace of lower-income customers might find the price too high for information. The flip side is stocking for the lower income, and having too much wear-and-tear traffic for the lesser per-piece profit.
As the game progresses and the gamer meets certain pre-defined goals, upgrades will appear in the menu selection matrix. Power generation will evolve from simple windmills, to solar panels, to generators and reactors. As these expansion items appear, the capital and maintenance costs for each will increase drastically, but so will the desired output.
I know it all sounds complicated, but the game is quite easy to pick up and play – even at the frantic pace that Outpost Kaloki X keeps. Within minutes, you will be hopping from node to node, adding, expanding, selling and repairing modules. For masochists, the overall game clock can be adjusted with a simple slider to speed up the time frame.
The game has two general modes from which to play; Story and Scenario. No surprise, the story mode follows a loosely linked, and quite forgettable plotline of galactic capitalism.
The Scenario mode breaks down into two classes; goal-based scenarios and what the game simply terms as “sandbox”. The goal-based scenarios give specific monetary targets to meet in a specified time limit, whereas the “sandbox” scenarios give you free reins to develop and build your own space station as you see fit.
There really, is not a whole lot to say about the graphics; taking a SimCity-like overview of a space station, finite detailing or texture mapping is not a priority.
Still, what is here is all well defined, colorful, and whimsical enough to serve its intended purpose, and there is enough detail to easily navigate the complex structures and get a good overall picture of what is going on in the station. For instance, when a modules needs repair, they will begin to show a small stream of smoke that will increase to a full-blown inferno.
As with the visuals, Outpost Kaloki X’s sound is fairly minimal – featuring upbeat, yet forgettable, atmospheric background music and a few blings and blips here and there. Still, the game could be worse – as the production value of what little is available is generally solid and the music is not distracting enough to annoy.
For around ten bucks, you get a ton of gameplay and a veritable library of extra downloadable content and scenarios. In fact, at this particular time, Outpost Kaloki X has the most free downloadable content of any other game in the Arcade library. Sure, most of it is fairly small stuff – simple 38kb scenario downloads and such – but it is cool to have continued support from the developers.
Really, within the amazing variety of Xbox Live Arcade offerings Microsoft has made available, Outpost Kaloki X is easily the best value for your dollar, and best of all – you can try it for free before you buy. How can you beat that?
You really can’t go wrong with Outpost Kaloki X – especially when well-worn PC versions still sell for twice the price.
Strip away its quirky façade, and you will find that Outpost Kaloki X is not too far a stretch from any other SimCity or Tycoon game on the market. However, the game’s eccentric and peculiar take on micromanagement gives Outpost Kaloki X a fresh and innovate feel that fits perfectly within Microsoft’s new loose “360” attitude, while still offering many nontraditional gamers a more conservative and cerebral experience.
Hardened gamers may find the game a bit dull compared to some of the other Xbox Live Arcade offerings. But, if you ever wanted to introduce your girlfriend, wife, or even your parents to the world of console gaming, look no further than Outpost Kaloki X – just don’t come crying to me when they won’t give you back your controller.
Oh yeah, for you Wall Street Journal business major types…Outpost Kaloki X is a no-brainer.