Remember Asteroids? If you’re old enough, you probably spent more than a few quarters dodging rocks and discovering the joys of velocity vectors with this classic arcade game. Remember shooting at those irritating little UFOs that would occasionally appear? Well, now Virgin gives you the chance to zoom about in space once more, shooting not at rocks and flying saucers but at spaceships just like yours, flown by other humans. Welcome to SubSpace, Virgin’s Internet game that takes the Asteroids idea and whomps it with a dose of steroids.
A simple game with a simple price ($29.95 retail), SubSpace manages to deliver more than expected. There is a jewel-box manual, and a full-size strategy guide as well. Internet play is free (though Virgin does provide numerous disclaimers disavowing any obligation to keep SubSpace servers up and running). There’s an offline practice mode, but the only real gaming is online. The graphics are simple yet colorful, with funky smoke trails from rocket engines and nifty explosions as well as nicely designed space ships. Designed for keyboard play, controls are simple and effective. And it will run on just any Pentium (though a 90MHz Pentium is recommended).
The strengths of SubSpace, though, are also its weaknesses. On the upside, it’s a great Asteroids clone. On the downside, it’s still just an Asteroids clone, albeit with lots of people and friendlier rocks. What’s great about this game, though, is its ability to combine simple mechanics with fairly complex strategies and tactics. While it won’t give chess a run for its money, SubSpace can be much more than a mere twitch game. With six different ships, the ability to attach oneself onto other ships as a turret, and numerous game styles (capture the flag, deathmatch, teams), there is a surprising amount of depth to the game.
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