Walking around the house very slowly with a fish bowl on your head. Listening to Nick Drake’s final album while eating roast clanger. Showing your bare buttocks to perfect strangers… there are numerous totally valid ways of commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first human lunar trespass. Me, I’m going to honour the crew of Apollo 11 by spending my lunch hour researching Saturn V rockets and turning M. Dietrich into the best damn astronautess NASA has ever seen.
Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space (available in open-source Windows-friendly form) might be sixteen years old now and looking a bit mad in the interface department, but it still communicates the truths and tension of the space race amazingly well. Essentially, it’s a game about research and risk. You spend your bi-annual allotment of MegaBucks buying and developing space gadgetry. New techs are initially extremely unreliable. Investing MBs and time will make them safer, but it’s always tricky deciding when a new capsule, rocket, or lander is ready for use. Dither and the Russians may beat you to a crucial milestone, commit too early and you can find yourself watching flag-draped coffins trundle through the gates of Arlington Cemetery.
If I was reviewing the game today, I’d gripe about the lack of a tech tree and mission overview (it’s not always obvious where R&D in certain areas will take you) and lavish praise on the way random events and period detail arrive in the form of mock newscasts. I’d also grumble about just how difficult it is to keep pace with history. In my current game it’s already 1972 and the Moon still seems a bloody long way away.