Unnatural Selection is pure Maxis, through and through; an open-ended sim that throws a bunch of tools (and a 134-page manual) at you and leaves you to get on with it. That's not quite true, there is some 'game' bolted on, but for the majority of it it's just down to you and those tools to make your own fun. And is it fun? Hmmm, I don't know. I enjoyed going through the manual and learning what you can do, but when the training wheels came off and I was left on my own, I just rapidly got bored and gave up. That might say something more about me... Anyway, what is this game? The idea behind it is that it's an artificial life simulator. You set a bunch of attributes for your nascent creature - physical things like strength and stamina, along with traits such as how much they like fighting or mating. You then throw a bunch of them down (the tutorial has you filling your pen with over 250 of them, so you can see the scale involved), then you start up the sim and let them go. As they go about their lives, you can influence them by adding mutations or culling the weak to try and breed the most powerful creatures that you can. There are only three base creature types, so graphically it's a bit boring, but the AI permutations are fascinating. So that's the science side, you sit in your lab and watch little clumps of pixels moving around a square. What's the game side like? Well, it's essentially the same, but this time there's a point to your genetic meddling. You'll be presented with an island where some of these creatures are running rampant, and you'll need to develop your own strain of creatures to combat them, then fly them over to the island in batches and make sure they're in the right place with the right attributes. You can also fly over things like food or aggression drugs to affect their behaviour. That's pretty much it. It feels a bit like the Creatures games, which fascinated me when I was younger, and it suffers from the same problems: the science side is fascinatingly complex, while the game side feels a bit empty. A shame. Onwards!
Next up on the randometer is...Dominus! It's an early fantasy strategy hybrid game from US Gold. I vaguely remember it from back in the day, but don't know much about it. Looking forward to it!