SpaceEngine, PC

Vladimir Romanyuk‘s incredible SpaceEngine is a simulation of the entire observable universe, with the goal being “scientific realism”, and to reproduce every known type of astronomical phenomenon.

It uses up-to-date data on real interstellar objects (from the Hipparcos Catalogue for stars, and the NGC and IC catalogues for galaxies), all of which can be visited and explored using the simple controls and the Heads-Up Display (the HUD, which also displays detailed properties of any object that is selected, such as mass, temperature, radius, et cetera); it uses procedural generation to fill in the gaps, and describe places we don’t yet know; and it also includes a complex space exploration element for creating relatively realistic spacecraft to travel around in. Be warned, though: SpaceEngine is not Elite Dangerous, No Man’s Sky, or any other kind of fictional space opera – this is serious, hardcore, realistic stuff. You do not go around blasting lasers at Thargoids in this…

That said: anyone with even a passing interest in astronomy, physics, or science should have a look at SpaceEngine. It’s not perfect (and is improving all the time), but it is pretty damn astounding – the level of detail, variety and beauty in the game is jaw-dropping. Just like the real universe…

The first public release of SpaceEngine was in 2010, and it has been free to download and use since then. Only recently (June 2019), with the release of version 0.990 on Steam, has SpaceEngine become a paid-for program. And at a mere £20 it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re fascinated by the cosmos and science – as everyone should be!

More: SpaceEngine on Wikipedia
Steam: SpaceEngine on Steam

More about SpaceEngine:

The software has its own built-in database which gives detailed information on all celestial objects and allows the player to create custom names and descriptions for them.

SpaceEngine has a locations database where players can save any position and time within the simulation, and can load it from that specific point.

Although objects that form part of a planetary system move, and stars rotate about their axes and orbit each other in multiple star systems, stellar “proper motion” is not simulated, and galaxies are at fixed locations and do not rotate.

Most real-world spacecraft such as Voyager 2 are not provided with SpaceEngine.

Interstellar light absorption is not modelled in SpaceEngine.

SpaceEngine is easily modifiable and supports a large variety of add-ons. The online community has created many third-party add-ons, including high-resolution textures, language localisations, spacecraft models, edited shaders, galaxy models, lens flare effects, and fictional planetary systems. Most add-ons are available via the official website forums.

In SpaceEngine‘s “beta spaceship mode”, the program simulates inertia, realistic gravity wells, and atmospheric dynamics.

Although faster-than-light travel is not currently possible, SpaceEngine implements a feasible warp drive based on the Alcubierre drive.

Relativistic effects on the speed of light are simulated, in areas such as redshifted galaxies, the gravitational redshift exerted by black holes, and the theoretical redshift produced by the above-mentioned warp drive.


Terry Cavanagh‘s VVVVVV is an extremely smart-but-simple platform/indie game that feels a lot like a Commodore 64 game from the ’80s, although it was actually released in 2010.

VVVVVV – I think – is a wonderful love letter to the days of 8-bit gaming. The graphics are sparse but characterful; the gameplay is simple but maddeningly addictive; and the music really is something special (Magnus Pålsson‘s brilliant soundtrack elevates this game massively).

What makes VVVVVV really stand out from the crowd, though, is not its ridiculous title (is it pronounced “vee, vee, vee, vee, vee, vee” or “six vees”?), but the fact that your character (Captain Viridian) doesn’t jump (and in fact can’t jump), but that he reverses gravity instead. Which allows him to drop himself strategically into certain places. It’s all very clever when the going is easy, but highly challenging to get right when the going is tough. And there are a few places in the game that take great skill and determination to beat.

One of the best “modern retro” games out there, although VVVVVV loses ten percent for not having a built-in grabber. Terry: sort it out mate. 😉


Etrian Odyssey III - Nintendo DS 115

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City, Nintendo DS [Part 2]

I want to post some more grabs from Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City on the Nintendo DS. Because it really is one of the best RPGs of all time, and because I can’t recommend you play it highly enough.

In my mind, developer Atlus took all of the best elements of computer Role-Playing Gaming over the past twenty years, and rolled them into this game.

Etrian Odyssey III is not perfect, however, but it’s as close to level-grinding nirvana on a console as you can get. And – having played Etrian Odyssey 1 & 2 before this, and seeing its potential – Atlus must be commended for realising that potential in this game.

The (quite wonderful) stylus/mouse-based mapping element is worth the price of admission alone. But there’s so much more to this game. The craft, quality and detail are joyous to experience, although Etrian Odyssey III is a very tough game.

I’ve not yet managed to beat the three (four actually) dragons at the end, but have otherwise been absorbed for months at a time playing this game. The combat is so good. A great example of how timings and interface make for great combat. And variety. There’s just so much variety in this game, but it’s not out of control, and Etrian Odyssey III feels like a great console game.

Etrian Odyssey III is a great console game. One of the greatest!

I’ve prepared some new grabs to show off Etrian Odyssey III‘s detail a bit more (my last post about this game I think I only posted five grabs). And remember: this is a dual-screen game (top and bottom screens). I’ve cropped most shots down to one screen, but the taller grabs are two screens on top of each other. Enjoy.

More on The King of Grabs:
Etrian Odyssey, Etrian Odyssey II, Etrian Odyssey III

More: Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City on Wikipedia

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

BioShock 2, PC

BioShock 2 was first released in 2010 by 2K Games.

Personally, I think BioShock 2 just edges it over its predecessor, because the setting is really interesting (rather than hunting Big Daddies, in this one you get to play AS a Big Daddy), and also because this sequel has a decent multiplayer side (the first BioShock had no multiplayer). And also because the game mechanics are slightly more detailed than the first game. I also think the ending is better in BioShock 2. Of the three possible endings, the one I got I thought was absolutely brilliant. Brought a tear to the eye…

BioShock 2 carries on a fine tradition of emotional, dark action adventures on the PC (and other systems), and is still well worth a play any day of the week.


Rage, PC

id Software‘s fantastic post-apocalyptic shooter Rage was first released by Bethesda in 2010.

The game generally divides games-players, although in my opinion it is a great First-Person Shooter. And a weapon-fetishist’s wet dream… Not only are the weapon models some of the best I’ve ever seen, but when a new weapon is introduced into the game the way the main character handles it and shows it off is something to behold.

Rage really isn’t a game for people who hate guns…

But id Software has always been the leading developer when it comes to weapons in First-Person Shooter games, and Rage cements that fact. At least in my mind.

That aside: Rage is also a very interesting mix of shoot ’em up and RPG. It has RPG elements that open the game up a little more, and brilliant driving sections too. You spend quite a bit of time driving from one settlement, or location, to the next, and are often under attack while in transit. I really like the driving sections. And there are online multiplayer races too. Although – in reality – the driving sections are just an off-shoot of the main game. Which is: high-octane, first-person blasting action. In an amazing, scary and dark 3D environment.

It might be getting on a bit now, but Rage is still capable of showing its gaming class.


Limbo, PC

Dark and disturbing, Playdead’s Limbo is a small boy’s journey into a world filled with deadly traps and killer monsters. It is one of the best platform games ever made, with beautiful, subtle, atmospheric, black and white graphics, eyebrow-raising situations, and ingenious solutions to problems. And lots of gratuitous killing. Almost always of yourself.



Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, PC

Colourful and adrenaline-pumping update of a retro-gaming classic, Pac-Man Championshop Edition DX is a pill-eating maze game that pays fitting tribute to the arcade game. This is one big, tripping score attack!


Fallout New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas, PC

Fallout: New Vegas really is the game Fallout 3 could have been. Don’t get me wrong: I quite liked Fallout 3 (and loved Fallouts 1 & 2), but the storytelling and decision-making in Fallout 3 I felt left a LOT to be desired.

In Fallout: New Vegas, if you really wanted to be bad, you could be very “bad”. And, this game being set in Las Vegas (and the surrounding desert), there is plenty of scope for being VERY bad.

And there is also plenty of scope for getting yourself killed, and for killing other people too. In Fallout: New Vegas, life is cheap, and the weapons are even cheaper…

In short, Fallout: New Vegas is a Role-Playing and shooting classic. Cazadors, deathclaws, Glowing Ones… They are all now part of gaming folklore.