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iPhone  header logo

Space Trader: Moon Madness


For: iPhone

A whole lotta emptiness

Product: Space Trader: Moon Madness | Developer: HermitWorks | Format: iPhone | Genre: 3D, Adventure | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1
 
Space Trader: Moon Madness iPhone, thumbnail 1
We all know that buying low and selling high is the way to vast profits and a strong economy. Well, everyone except the world’s governments, banks, accountants and financial institutions - you know, the people who actually run economies (yeah, run ‘em into the ground - zing!)

Space Trader: Moon Madness takes that concept in several different ways. Sure, you’re playing the game to make a profit, but it’s also quite literal in the sense of selling high. Most of your transactions take place in outer space and you don’t get much higher than that without going backstage at an Amy Winehouse concert.

It’s a bit hard to pigeonhole Space Trader: Moon Madness. While it looks very much like a 3D adventure with the promise of exploration, meeting alien species in the deep black void like a celestial cowboy on the final frontier, it’s not.

Aside from looking a lot like the kinds of games that do offer all that 3D adventuring, Space Trader: Moon Madness doesn’t actually provide a Han Solo-esque space-faring career. The clue to its gameplay is in the name, and it remains as superficial as that.

There are three locations for you to trade: Earth, the moon, and an orbital colony in between. Despite the game’s outer space connotations, all the gameplay takes place inside these three indoor locations, on foot and without danger (other than going broke).

With only three trading locations and 131 days in which to make your fortune (with 25 days lost each time you travel between the moon and Earth) you’ll struggle to complete many of the jobs you take on, and the secret missions will require more uncovering than you’ll likely have the interest for.

In many ways, playing Space Trader: Moon Madness is like wandering around inside a rather basic massively multiplayer online hub without any other players, computer-controlled characters standing around waiting for you to make contact.

You can buy and sell commodities these characters are interested in, while others will offer you a gofer mission with cash rewards. Sometimes these missions will turn out to be illegal. Talking your way past the authorities can result in fines, rewards and punishment - a nice touch to otherwise drab gameplay.

Space travel is trivialised when your only real concern is whether coffee commodities have risen or fallen since you last checked the galactic markets. While most traders only deal in certain substances, they’re generally operating on autopilot when it comes to doing business.

Building relationships with NPCs isn’t required at all, so it’s hard to think of them as anything other than the most basic functional devices.

Graphically Space Trader: Moon Madness hides the monotony of its gameplay, however. The 3D environments, while rather sparse, are still spectacular and ultra-smooth in their animation. If this were a shooter, the space stations would make superb battlegrounds.

For that matter, if said shooter was to adopt Space Trader: Moon Madness’s control system it’d be onto another winning formula. Two analogue thumb pads are placed on the screen: one controlling movement, the other controlling the camera. It works a dream, maximising your range of vision and making navigation of the 3D levels accurate and easy.

Space Trader: Moon Madness is without competition, but only because it's in such a niche genre. The hopes of epic exploration are dashed on the moon rocks of this economic simulation. Even if you're in the market for trading, too many design hurdles keep it from blasting off.
 
Space Trader: Moon Madness
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 15 April 2009
The excellent graphics and superb control system feel somewhat wasted on a game where very little happens, and outer space has never felt so small
 
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