Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Colony'

Rating:5 User: jeff_b

Colony was a gaming surprise for me as a young 'un - it's somewhat necessary to delve into the misty depths of nostalgia to explain how I came across it. As a kid I lived in a small village with no ready access to software so the majority of my games were borrowed from the public library, which had a few dusty shelves of 8-bit games. For your £1 a week you could loan one game and the collection of games on the shelf were pretty much static, so there was a sense of slowly working through the shelf week upon week. This meant that sometimes you took a chance on a game that didn't look particularly compelling. This, in a nutshell, is Colony. A budget game that was virtually ignored, but hides a compelling gem.

The game's premise is pretty simple - you are a robotic janitor on a mushroom farm based on an alien desert world. Your job is to ensure the mushrooms are safely grown and harvested, but there's a catch in that aliens are constantly attacking your farm from outside, forcing you to defend yourself and repair the fencing. Electric traps offer some defence, but these must be powered by solar panels and - if the base power drops - are rendered inactive. As a strategic twist, supplies can be ordered from the base's beacon and are delivered by dropship. This leads to some fierce tension as you desperately ensure a good harvest to get some money for a higher level of fencing or seeds, for example. Or the sudden realisation you've forgotten to even turn the beacon on as an inbound dropship strews its precious cargo for you to recover across the desert. Oh, and that remote droid helper you bought? It's broken. Time to order another.

It's this clever melding of accessible arcade play with depthier strategic goals that makes Colony satisfying to play. Although the alien attacks are relentless, you never feel entirely overwhelmed - by using fencing you can slow the attacks to a trickle, but this requires a solid farming infrastructure - nibbled mushrooms will not aid your cause. Approaching a balance between expansion, nurturing and defending in the game is vital and means although the unwary robot who ignores the mushrooms and attempts to stave off attacks single-handed with netted loops of barbed wire fencing will most likely fail horribly, but it's still a viable play tactic.

If there's a problem with Colony, it's the lack of an overall aim. The full replacement of the farm's fencing to super-duper steel and having a brimming-over mushroom export industry is the endgame, the attacks becoming only increasingly more vicious from this point. There's no actual ending. Nevertheless, it stands out as being a rather more thoughtful and tense arcade experience than most Speccy efforts and for a budget game offered unbeatable value.