Afterlife
Review by Alfred Giovetti, 09/22/96
Price: $60
Strategy guide: $20
Genre: God game simulation
Release: Available Now
Developer: LucasArts Entertainment
Designer: Michael Stemmle
Publisher: LucasArts Entertainment
Phone: 800-985-8227, 800-98LUCAS
Website: www.lucasarts.com,
http://www.lucasarts.com/static/afterlife/afterlifemenu.htm
Requirements: 486/66, 8MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, Super VGA video card, and Sound Blaster-compatible sound cards, Windows 95 or DOS 6.0, PowerPC or 68040/33, 8MB RAM (with 5MB free), System 7.1

History: Creator Michael Stemmle is though of as the twisted mind behind Sam and Max Hit the Road. And what you would expect from this twisted mind is what you get - a twisted game. For some the Maxis SimCity classic is heaven and hell, fun at the extreme. Now from LucasArts you get to have a SimCity like simulation of heaven and hell. This is the first simulation strategy game from LucasArts.

Plot: Souls, stands for stuff of unending life, are randomly generated from an earth-like planet where they are transported to the simulations heaven and hell. Players have to design appropriate rewards and punishments for these souls or the souls will become dissatisfied. If souls are appropriately dealt with and your realms grow to the one billion soul mark, the game players are awarded with Omnibolges (in hell) and Love Domes (in heaven). If the souls are not taken care of correctly, the player is punished by the Four Surfers of the Apocalypse, who reek and also wreak wholesale havoc on the entire simulation. This is kind of like heaven and hell for the game player, just to get them involved with the story.

Game play: As souls begin to migrate, players manage the soulsí arrival by zoning and developing areas for the seven deadly sins and their respective virtues. Through intense resource management, players must balance their divine/demonic work force, meet the needs of the population and anticipate disasters. This game is hard, the more time expends the more things can and will go wrong. Souls also have the option of being reincarnated, and you have to provide training centers for souls that want to remain here permanently as angels and devils and karma portals to hurry the others onto their next lives.

Like SimCity, heaven and hell have zoning, but here it is fate zoning based upon the seven deadly color-coded sins and virtues. Red is lust, while green is wrath. Souls are only happy if they believe in heaven and hell and if they are getting the fate they deserve. Like SimCity even the most well balanced constructs can come tumbling down.

While you got the realms pumping with good or bad vibes depending upon the loaction, its pennies from heaven that mark your success. Some souls only believe in heaven and hell, while others believe in both, and another group believes in reincarnation. Your job demands a balance between heaven and hell zones, so you have to control the advertising so that an equal number appear in both places.

Disasters: From the earliest sim times there have been vestiges of fin games such as Crunch, Crumble, and Chomp, where monsters run wild through the now created city destroying vast areas. Unlike the Four Surfers who are the reward for incompetence, these other disasters are random events or possibly punishment for using the cheats available.

Some of the most comical of these disaster include Hell Freezes Over, which most of us have been waiting for and which incapacitates, albeit temporarily, large sections of hell, the Disco Inferno, who is a polyester clad dancer who leaves a swath of smashed builings in the wake of his dapper do. Other cute ones include Heaven Nose in hell and Hell in a Handbasket for heaven, that takes entire buildings from one realm and deposits them into the other.

Heaven can get the blues and shut down as eaxy as hell can freeze over. Unlike other sims, the humor shown with these disasters makes them a welcome change when things get a bit bogged down in administering the realms.

Statistics: Dozens of graphs and statistics track player progress. Track literally billions of characters and individual "souls."

Scenarios: Try to manage a group of saved games, such as Danteís Divine Sitcom where all the structures in hell are arranged like in the immortal comedy.

Help and humor: Aria Goodhalo, an angelic advisor, and Jasper Wormsworth, a devilishly dapper deamon, report on your success and failures in the game and provide advice on demand concerning the development of your dual realms. Convenient online tutorials help with game play.

While the online help is superior, the manual based documentation is woefully inadequate. When will game producers wise up to the fact that simply giving the game player an online manual is not enough. Many people want there old paper manuals and the online manual and its computer printer version of the bound handbook just do not cut it.

This humor is sick and has a special flavor to it. While heaven and hell is work, the rewards in jokes are real. For example, pause is divine intervention. Other funny things help you manage the difficulty like the speed settings, including mortal plodding, hounds of hell, and demonically fast. Unfortunately, ludicrous speed was left out to console the timid.

Graphics: More than 300 richly detailed tiles and structures. More than 2000 rendered rewards and punishments, which are the places where souls live in heaven. Profiles of individual souls are graphically represented and tracked on charts. Graphics are high resolution with settings from 640 by 480 to 1024 x 768 pixels. Zooming in and out will give you a glimpse at the immense level of detail. At the highest level of zoom things are quite small and on the lowest power things are quite pixelated.

Animations are very far and few between and visa versa.

Voice actors: Great portrayals of the main characters add to the sardonic humor.

Music score: A subtle melodic and somewhat catchy music score plays quietly in the background.

Sound effects: Whip cracks and other sounds effectively convey the joy and pain of these two realms.

Conclusion: Sim fans will like this one. Afterlife is easy to learn and addictive. According to LucasArts Afterlife is "the last word in sims - literally." I think I agree.

Documentation: A surprisingly short manual for all the things that are going on. You may want to pick up the strategy guide.

Advice: You gotta listen to your advisers, because the tiny printed manual just donít cut it. Play the tutorials and you may learn something useful. Fate zoning balance is critical, so watch it.

Hints: Expansion means expense and expenses should be curbed. Income is difficult to come by in both heaven and hell. Make roads wind around in hell and straight as an arrow in heaven.

Cheats: Type $@! At any time to receive ten million pennies. This divine help will only work five times per game. Type in SAMNMAX to destroy your game with a most interesting disaster.

References:
Tom Byron, FAQ, The Adventurer, number 12, summer, 1996, pg. 8-9.
Tom Byron, http://www.lucasarts.com/pages/Adventurer.548.html
David Israels, http://www.cnet.com/Gamecenter/Reviews/Afterlife/
Tim Carter, Computer Gaming World, number 146, September, 1996, pg. 208-210, 4/5, (80%).
http://www.megatoon.com/~t15/issue16/alifshot.htm
http://www.hwy401.com/mall/gamed/features/11afterlife/11aflife.htm
http://www.megatoon.com/~t15/issue16/alife.htm, (91%)
Leandro Asnaghi-Nicastro and Allan Earle, http://www.gamesmania.com/english/reviews/new/afterlife.htm, 7.5/10 (75%).
Steve Klett, PC Games, volume 3, number 9, September, 1996, pg. 76-78, A-, (92%).
Kevin J. McCann, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, September, 1996, pg. 76-77, 8/10, (80%).
Kevin J. McCann, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, September, 1996, pg. 84-87, strategy guide.
Robert Mayer, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 68-69, 3/5, (60-80%)