|Who thought an outer space gossip simulator could be so much fun?! The goal is, ultimately, to prove to the Ubbermenscha that you (and your human species) are indeed fit to become part of the Galactic Community. They've set you the task of finding out who the Usurper is; your mission is to eliminate him (it?) with the Ray of Justice once enough evidence is available to make a convincing case. The way you gather evidence is to flit around the galaxy, chatting with various amusing species of beings (19 in all). These species will each be glad
to offer you one piece of information for free, but they need to be bartered with for more. To that end, you must also visit various planets and collect different kinds of crystals, some of which appeal to each of the species. The ship you travel in has only so much cargo room, cleverly limiting you from spending one half of the game just loading up on crystals, the other half on trading rumours and hearsay. Some planets are abundant in certain crystals, some have a little of a number of different kinds, and some are barren altogether. Planets also host the alien species, so some planning must take place in order to remember who's living where. Time can be wasted running back and forth aimlessly without an adequate map of crystal and species locations. With a proper supply of crystals, you then "gift" a particular species with
the proper crystal, and they tell you nasty things (or nice things) about some other species. The reliability of their information depends, of course, on their own relationship with other species. Creatures who are friends are more likely to be telling the truth about each other than creatures expressing hostility towards each other. Your task is to sort out hearsay and innuendo from valuable information, to get to the point where you can ascertain a likely suspect with some reliability. To this end, your ship is fitted out with ARAC, a Xenology study computer and database. This unit gathers the information you collect as you go along, and
offers likely profiles for each species (clearly, the success of the computer depends on the extent of your gathered info). Each species for which a profile is requested will be worked up in terms of likely friends, enemies, and favorite crystal type. Whether the species is friendly, honest or disloyal is also indicated by the system. All these inferences are generated out of the log of contacts, successes and failures you've made while attempting to get some straight talk. Once you think you've cornered the potential culprit, you must put together the right combination of crystals in order to fire up the Ray of Justice; firing the Ray essentially leads to the program's conclusion, where it indicates whether your identification of the Culprit has proven to be correct or not. Beware the Ubbermenscha: They are not pleasant when disappointed. It's a very much a static, window-oriented design. The right mouse button calls up a menu bar at the top for entering commands, and various windows can be controlled by clicking on the appropriate places. Animations are limited to planet pictures and images of aliens, the latter especially well done. The engrossing qualities of the game come from the
process of trying to figure out "whodunit" (or who's going to do it) rather than from the graphics or sound design (there is no sound). One of the more interesting aspects of the game design is that the location of species, crystals, and the nature of the relationships between creatures are ever-changing; no two games seem to come out exactly the same. This makes
for good replayability, and sustains the mystery from session to session. Comparable in some ways to MPS Labs' Lightspeed, but without the potentially annoying flight sequences, it can prove to be a fascinating little puzzler.