Global Effect. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Hell hath no fury like a planet scorned. The popular "god sim" genre takes a pragmatic new twist in Global Effect, a complex game of environmental checks and balances. Would-be leaders can now create, rule, destroy, and save their pixel planets in one fell swoop.
Basic gameplay consists of building and managing cities, serviced by waste disposal, fuel sources, power stations, and food and water supplies. The trick is to construct a thriving civilization while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. You must keep population, pollution, and urban sprawl in check, while constantly monitoring environmental data, such as water and air pollution, carbon dioxide levels, ozone depletion, and global warming. The goal is simply to keep this ball of wax alive and well, by whatever means, as long as possible. Because each world is randomly generated, no two games are exactly alike.
Game modes include one player battling an aggressive computer rival and two players connected via null modem link. A plethora of pregame options begins with three fundamental styles of play: create a new world, save a troubled planet, or compete for global domination. In Creation mode, you must choose from a palette of eight predefined world types, including barren, archipelagos, forested, frozen, and mineral rich. There's also a user-defined "green" world, where you control such parameters as temperature, tree density, seismic activity, and fuel/mineral availability. Creation mode offers a fascinating--and often cruel--proving ground for your management skills against a multitude of environmental problems.
Well-weathered players can attempt to save a dying world, by far the game's most challenging segment. With only a limited amount of time, you must bring the world back from the brink in four nightmare scenarios: postnuclear fallout, widespread industrial pollution, global warming, and exhausted natural resources. This advanced mode of play is decidedly not for the weak willed or easily frustrated.
In the final two-player option, leaders compete to rule the world by economic means or military might. The challenge here is to curtail your opponent's advances while maintaining ecological stability.
Battles between conventional forces add yet another element of anxiety: the potential for nuclear exchange and its devastating ecological impact. The military scenario fares best between two human players; the computer opponent is prone to push its big red button at the slightest provocation.
Alas, the designers have corrupted this nearly perfect gaming environment with one unnecessary feature: the power meter. Every player action--from planting a tree to simply viewing updated information--requires power. Poor global management depletes power, while favorable ratings increase it. But the system is too unforgiving. As problems arise, the power available to fix them also decreases. It's an unbalanced, no-win situation, akin to a dog chasing its tail while walking a tightrope. Worse still, when the game ends, players must exit to DOS and reload the program to begin again.
The graphics throughout are handsomely drawn in 256-color VGA, featuring a top-down view of the large scrolling playfield and mouse-driven control-panel overlay. Though it offers detailed descriptions of individual game elements, the 79-page manual includes little in the way of instructions or tips for actual gameplay.
Global Effect is an engrossing, enigmatic work betrayed by its own complexity and a few unfortunate design flaws. Tenacious players might eventually enjoy this complex model of environmental cause and effect. All others will find the role of planetary savior a tough job with few rewards.