Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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I missed Spaceward Ho!; I just didn't know I missed it. It's one of those games from the early days of color Macs, when ANY game that was a Mac exclusive felt like a strange and wonderful prize that had to be played as soon as possible and savored for as long as it lasted. Sadly, however, I had completely forgotten it until it appeared in the App Store via developer Ariton. What a joy to discover not only an old friend, but an old-school game that successfully makes the transition to iOS and all of its touch screen goodness.
Spaceward Ho! is a space exploration, colonization and economics game. Yeah, there's some battling and combat in there as well, but it's mostly a product of the economic conditions you create for your interplanetary society. Players begin with one planet amidst many (actually, the starting galaxy size for the game can go from relatively tiny to colossal. Start small. Trust me.). All other planets are unknown quantities, so players must create scouts to explore what's out there in the wilds of space. Once discovered, unclaimed planets can be terraformed to make them more hospitable and/or profitable and colonized. Notice that I wrote "unclaimed planets." Many of the planets will already be inhabited and controlled by one of several AI opponents, none of which are pushovers. In my first game on the iPad, the AI stomped me handily before I even remembered how to effectively play.
Opponents mean combat, and space battles are an element of Spaceward Ho!, if not a prominent one. In fact, when first playing it's pretty easy to wonder why and how planets are being taken over by rivals. The answer is easy - Spaceward Ho! doesn't really focus on the actual combat, but it can be viewed by going to the history screen and selecting the various battles that have taken place. It's definitely a low-tech way of handling interstellar space combat, but the game doesn't suffer as a result.
Anyone who played Spaceward Ho! during its glory days on the Mac will be pleased to know that the transition to iOS is virtually seamless. Touch controls work effortlessly, except for a few occasions when it's hard to select a specific unit to move. Otherwise, there's nothing lost in the translation; actually, the game may work better on a touch screen. All of the old sound effects are back as well, so expect to hear that familiar "Hyah!" when you travel to a new planet, or "Let's get out of here" when abandoning a planet.
Spaceward Ho! is still as challenging, and fun, as it ever was. Don't expect to be overwhelmed by graphical prowess or spectacular sound effects. This is from the old days, kids. It was all about the gameplay back then, which is why Spaceward Ho! still has legs.