57 - Starflight (Megadrive)

Being a space freak I was thrilled to bits with Starflight on the Megadrive. The 16-bit consoles weren't home to many games with this much depth - this was the kind of thing I'd normally be playing on the Amiga or ST - but Starflight is a game that kept me engrossed for countless hours, and still does.

Right from the start that depth becomes apparent when you have to select and train a crew for your ship, allocating funds to train each in particular skills - some races being more adept at certain tasks than others. Luckily early mistakes can be corrected by firing incompetents and hiring new blood. After assigning jobs it's off to work, which entails exploring the galaxy looking for tradeable commodities, surveying planets for suitable colonisation, and making contact with alien races, among other things. Your spacecraft can be upgraded using the money you make from trading and rewards for successful explorations, and along the way an epic plot unfolds.

The actual controls are very arcade-like. Your ship blasts around the solar systems on an overhead 2D display, and landing on a planet or station is achieved by simply swinging the ship around in enough of an arc to get caught by gravity. Planetfall can be tricky - your ship drops like a rock, and careful use of the thrusters are needed to place it in a safe spot without damage or destruction. The sections where you're directly controlling the craft act as a nice flipside to the planning and record-keeping that's necessary in the other parts of the game. Starflight mixes both together nicely.

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