MindRover: The Europa Project
Along time ago, when everyone wore flares, had silly heavy metal haircuts and smoked a lot of dope, a guy called Stuart 6 Marks wrote an unusual game for the Commodore Amiga. Called Omega, it put you in the role of chief designer at a secret military test facility, where you built tanks that outsmarted computer-controlled opponents. The hook was that you breathed life into your creations by programming them with a rudimentary Artificial Intelligence, in a language somewhat similar to BASIC. Each tank you built became a sort of motorised application, with its every action triggered by variables, subroutines and loops.
MindRover is an ultra-modern, OpenGL crossbreed of Omega and the equally memorable Incredible Machine series, the first of which appeared on the PC back in 1995. In essence, you have to construct and program a robot capable of negotiating a string of puzzles and predicaments not too dissimilar from those seen on telly in programs such as The Adventure Game or The Crystal Maze.
You do all this by designing the basic frame of the vehicle and then adding components that interact with one another. Like Omega, the interest lies in the fact that you never actually get to drive the vehicles you make; their every movement stems from the way you've wired them together. But, unlike Omega, the programming stage doesn't involve hideously convoluted lines of code, instead taking the form of a graphical, drag and drop representation of cables running inside the robot's shell.
The MindRover manual - ring-bound to provide some indication of the brainache that lays ahead - is written in an intelligent but accessible style, and makes the game relatively easy to get into. If you dig deep enough you might also discover the tutorial that makes getting into the game even less of a hardship.
Players spend most of the game in 2D mode, where they design, build and wire up their robots. The first two stages involve picking a suitable chassis, much like you would in Earth 2150, and then equipping it with components: engine, steering, proximity sensor, machine gun, rocket launchers, even eccentric things such as fireworks and a police siren.
The last stage is where the components are interconnected and brought to life. For example, if you have a bank of lasers on your robot, you'll need to connect them to a component which actually triggers them. If you want your robot to steer its way around a maze, you'll need to give it electronic eyes so it can sense where the walls are. To be honest, the manual is a bit hazy on wiring but, after creating a dozen or so truly moronic robots, you quickly get the idea of how to make them smarter.
The hydraulically smooth 30 gloss-o-vision is reserved for the actual challenges themselves: race around a circuit, navigate a maze, destroy an opponent - that sort of thing. They're all equally involving. On the robots, each component is fully rendered and animated, a feature which breathes real life into your creation and makes its success all the more important.
Rating this sort of game is difficult. For people who love puzzles and have previously bought copies of Incredible Machine, MindRover will provide hours of satisfying brain straining. For those who like to dabble in Windows programming and logic solving, it'll also be more than adequate. The trouble is, it's hard to recommend the game to the crowds of ADD adolescents who prefer attaining triple-figure heart rates playing stuff like Quake. Make of that what you will.
Download MindRover: The Europa Project
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP