Universe Sandbox (Review)

What is Universe Sandbox? Well, that’s a pretty good question. Is it a game? Not really… But then why is it even on Steam and why does it cost money? These are questions I really don’t think I can even answer and, by the time you are finished reading this review, you won’t be any closer to knowing the answers yourself. You will, however, know what you can do in Universe Sandbox.

Universe Sandbox is, well, a universe sandbox made by developer Giant Army and released at the end of April 2011. In Universe Sandbox, you quite literally get to do whatever you want with our universe. Want to take our solar system and add a few new moons to planets or change the order of the planets from the sun? You can do that. Want to make the moon crash into Earth? That is also possible. Hell, are you even wild enough to want to make Andromeda crash into the Milky Way? Again, that can be done.

KABLAMO! Yes, you are allowed to throw asteroids at the Earth.

In this open-ended sandbox title, there is no limit to what you can do with the tools given to you. While you can’t really have much fun with things like nebulas or quasars, you can place and edit any asteroid, planet, moon, or sun that you can think of. There are lots of simulations to play with as well, or you can start with a blank universe and build your own galaxies and solar systems complete with fully orbiting planets and moons.

So, what can be edited when you set down something like a planet? Diameter and mass top the list, and putting them both up to insanely high numbers results in some funny situations, like watching an unfathomingly huge Earth sucking in the entire Milky Way. You can also edit the model and texture of any celestial bodies, which grants you the ability to make entirely new planets or suns. Fans of science fiction series like Star Trek or Star Wars would surely like this as it grants them the ability to quite literally recreate their favourite solar systems and such. There are about three pages of text fields and sliders to play with for each object you set down in space, which is pretty insane. I haven’t even touched all of the sliders and, truth be told, I’m a little afraid to because one false move and you’ll completely upset whatever you’ve been working on unless you’re one hundred percent sure of what you are doing.

The controls are incredibly poor and unresponsive, which is this Universe Sandbox’s biggest fault. There is a Sims-like camera control menu in the bottom left of the screen, but it is very slow and tedious to use. The alternative is using the keyboard and mouse to move about but, quite frankly, how successful you are with the control scheme is pretty 50/50. Sometimes I’ve been able to navigate my solar systems with ease while, other times, one false click of the mouse and the camera is locked or I’m all the way across the universe.

Evidence that Universe Sandbox has a silly side. You are seriously allowed to place these objects.

There is no sound effects or music to speak of at all and what little graphics you’ll find in Universe Sandbox aren’t really that breathtaking. You would expect a space simulator to have really nice graphics to reflect the beautiful sights of the universe, but nothing in this sandbox title will even come even remotely close to wowing you. It’s all average fare. This isn’t a good thing, but it isn’t necessarily bad either.

If you’re a huge space buff, then you’ll probably have a lot of fun with Universe Sandbox. There’s so much to do that it’s overwhelming and sometimes you may not even be able to think of anything to do because there are just so many choices. This is pretty much what happened to me, and it’s why I’m completely unable to make this review any longer! Universe Sandbox is a pretty cool tool to check out, especially if you like space. However, if you doubt that you’d use it any more than a few times then you may not want to lay down the cash for it.

PROS:
+ It’s fun to cause chaotic events in space.
+ Extensive tutorial section should help players learn the game.
+ Player is given complete control over events.

CONS:
– No music or sound. At all.
– Sandbox is very intimidating for a while.
– Camera controls are terrible.

Final Score

5.8/10

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Hal-Con 2010

So it looks like there is an interesting convention happening in my city at the end of this month called Hal-Con. It used to occur annually sometime between 1970 and 1980 but was discontinued for reasons that I was told were rather unfortunate.

Anyway, looks like this Hal-Con deal is making a comeback as of this year. A lot of the material that will be at the convention sounds to be worth taking a look at. If any Haligonians drop by here, then think about checking Hal-Con out from October 29th to the 31st.

Here’s a few neat things happening at Hal-Con.

Appearances by Jeremy Bulloch, Denise Crosby, and Walter Koenig or as you may know them: Boba Fett (Star Wars), Tasha Yar (Star Trek TNG), Chekhov (Star Trek TOS). Seems that those who attend Hal-Con may get a chance to chat with them, as well as get autographs. Very cool. Several other actors from science fiction shows will be appearing at Hal-Con as well.

Do you like trading card games or Dungeons & Dragons? Well, many games will be played at Hal-Con. Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer 40k, World of Warcraft TCG, as well as a bunch of board games will be open for play. Cool!

There will be some cool lectures, such as one that deals with applying Star Trek and Star Wars sciences being applied to modern day technology.

Also, seems like there will be a few costume parties and such, which sounds like a great time to either be a cosplayer or photographer!

There will also be artist exhibits, photograph sessions, and various workshops. All in all, it sounds like a pretty decent first year revival of Hal-Con!

I initially didn’t feel too inclined to look into the event, but as the end of October nears, I may consider it. Apparently there will also be press passes made available. If other bloggers can get press passes to their own local conventions, then perhaps I can as well?

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