It’s the distant future, and you’ve been given the chance to colonize a pristine, uninhabited planet. After assembling some basic shelter, you continue to build the vitals: A disco, a coffee shop, and a computer store. Not the way you pictured the life of a space pioneer? It’s how things go down in Cosmic Colony, a basic simulation game from Gameloft that demands microtransactions faster than you can say ‘Shazbot.’
It’s Future O’Clock, and you’ve been called on to help colonize a wild, overgrown planet. Your earliest tasks include building shelter, then following up with retail establishments, roads, decorations, clubs, coffee shops, and other frivolities that keep your handful of citizens from getting bored and hitching a ride back to Earth.
In fact, ‘harvesting’ your citizens’ happiness is how you level up in Cosmic Colony. Whereas stores produce the sweet coin that you need to keep on building, houses and shelters churn out smiling faces that you collect by tapping on the screen. Unsettling!
“Welcome to New Earth. Disco’s on your right.”
Ah, but shops and houses don’t appear out of thin air (except when they do). Cosmic Colony requires you to garner building materials via mines and oil refineries. When you tap on raw material generators, they ‘shuffle’ for several minutes before coughing up random ores or components. You might get what you need to finish off that skeletal foundation that’s collecting spider webs in the corner of your colony, and then again, you might not.
The shuffling of materials inserts an interesting random element into Cosmic Colony, but otherwise, it’s an unremarkable freemium experience. You complete quests and you build up a city that doesn’t belong in science fiction any more than Wal-Mart does. A Starbucks in a bright, bubble-shaped shell is still a Starbucks.
Cosmic Colony is ‘free,’ but of course, Gameloft wants you to spend a few dollars for a premium experience. Cosmic Colony runs on an Energy-based system, and it’s impossible to play for more than a few minutes at a time without running out. You can’t simply erect a house: You need to build it in two steps, which costs you three Energy instead of one. Even harvesting vital money and happiness from your citizens costs Energy.
To Infinity and Beyond.
There are admittedly a couple of space-y distractions that attempt to give Cosmic Colony its own identity. You can expand your colony to explore alien ruins, and you can launch explorations to other planets in hopes of finding valuable resources. Space pirates attack on occasion, and you need to swipe them away like so many flies.
Unfortunately, these mini-games aren’t enough to give Cosmic Colony its own voice. It’s a good-looking city-building game, but it probably won’t be long before you delete it from your home menu and set it adrift in digital limbo.