An Argument


for the

Apple IIe

Published by Edu-Ware Services, Inc, 1979.

Read the Walkstory!


  Game Title: Mysterious!
  Graphics: None. Except for
                   the colored dots at
                   the beginning.
  Gameplay: Plagiarized!
  Concept: Making Money in
                  the future! And in
  Fun Time: A couple of
                    hours, maybe.


The back-of-the-box description of Space, a game from Edu-Ware Services, Inc, describes it as "a multi-faceted simulation of human life in an interstellar environment...designed to represent many of the decisions which would be faced by a member of interstellar society interacting with his complex and demanding environment." That sounds pretty exciting! So I load up the game and am greeted with this:

Hmm. I guess the future environment to someone in 1979 looked a lot like looking out of your window if your window displayed only four colours. And it was Version 2.5.

The game is divided into six sections. Five of those sections are simulations of different types of adventures your character can go on and the other section is Character Creation.

To play any of the other sections, the player must first create a character. This is actually a simulation in itself and often ends with your character being killed in training or the game trying to declare that your character is inferior and you might as well start over. This isn't helped at all by the way your character can start off deaf or blind or severely brain damaged or with a bad heart or unhealthy muscular system or poor lungs or a brittle skeleton. Besides having to risk all of these defects of the body, your character can also have a psychological problem that keeps him from being the best military person he can be. And you also have to realize that your attributes might randomly end up too low to do you any good once you go on the separate adventures.

Creating a character is so random that even the first choice you make where you get to pick which section of the military you want to join often gives you a message saying you're unfit for that branch and they force you into another branch. The rest of character creation lets you spend a number of years of your life adding one point per year to a variety of skills, many of which the game will tell you you're too crazy or too weak to add a point to that skill.

After four years, you're allowed to choose to re-enlist or retire. But even this is an illusory choice as often you are told that the galaxy is at war and you can't retire or when you try to re-enlist, sometimes you're told that you've suffered some sort of medical breakdown and are medically discharged. And, of course, sometimes you die during training.

Character creation is really just a big gamble to see how much money you can earn as quickly as possible while raising some key skills and statistics that might help you out in a later adventure, although I really don't know what skills help you in which areas. Vacuum Suit? Rafting? Gambling? Forgery?

Once you've been kicked out of Character Creation (or chosen to retire yourself and allowed to retire when you choose), you have the opportunity to adventure as a civilian! You can choose First Blood where you fight to the death against a single opponent and then earn all of their loot. You can Defend a planet from alien invasion through a series of changing shield and weapon energy amounts through guess work and intuition. You can Explore uncharted planets to earn your fortune. You can become a space Trader. Or you can play the High Finance market.

Your best bet is to explore so that you can earn enough money to become a trader or play the markets. First Blood involves too many random factors and your character might not even be up to physical combat due to the randomness of character creation. Defend might be worth doing if you can figure out exactly how to manipulate your energy reserves to the correct shields and weapons placements. Usually, I would run out of energy and then the entire population would get slaughtered. If you do choose to explore (which you should!), it seems the planets don't change too much when you explore them. I suggest exploring planet K5170U!

Once you earn enough money through planet exploration, you can buy a ship and start trading. Trading seems fairly straightforward. You get a couple of choices of cargo with the prices you can purchase them and the prices they seem to be selling for at your destination. Make a few calculations to see which is the better cargo, fill your hold with it, and set off! Be sure to always buy enough gas (usually the recommended amount) and head off!

The main goal of this game doesn't seem to have anything to do with making decisions in a complex future environment. Most of it is surviving character creation long enough to begin exploring. Then if you survive exploring long enough through all the randomness, you can start trading. Make enough money in trading and you can earn your retirement through the High Finance adventure. The ultimate goal is just to make as much money as possible. It really just seems like a future simulation for the 1980s.

And then there are the things that should be random but aren't random at all. When you're Trading, always take Weaponry on the journey where you can take weapons or electronics. And always take Drugs on the journey where you can take Drugs or Crystals. Unless something random changes somewhere along the way, it doesn't seem like anything dangerous happens while trading. At least while trading in the scout ship. I never played enough to purchase a Merchant Ship.

As far as I noticed, it's actually more dangerous to play the stock market than to deal with Space Trade. Randomly as you sit around buying stocks, your character can fall ill for no good reason. If he is about to die, someone will come along and offer to heal you for all of your money and all of your investments. Seems like a crappy deal! I just chose to die.


All in all, the game held my interest long enough for me to try out every kind of adventure. Playing the stock market might have held my interest longer as I tried to really rake in the money except for the fact that you fall ill at random moments.

For a role playing game, there is just too much randomness in character creation and the one real combat system. And also for a role playing game, there isn't enough randomness in your journey to different planets while exploring or the amount of money you can make while trading! 

For 1979, I suppose it would have held someone's interest long enough to try to see if they could beat their old character's financial record. But for a game that apparently stole its system from Traveller and then was sued so that they had to change the game, it seems like a giant let down.

Also, once you've died, the game doesn't let you know how much money you were left with. So the only reason to play this game would be to beat your or your friend's old record. But since the game is written in BASIC and just boots you out to a prompt, you can do the following to figure out how much money you had when you died. Once the game ends and you're left with the prompt, type PRINT SK(29) and enter. The game will then list a number. That's how much money you had when you died! Yay!


Copyright 2006 NA!P