How can a planet survive or even just coexist with humankind? Stepping into the shoes of Sim Earth and Balance of the Planet, Global Effect reuses the gameplay of Sim City for another entry into this not too crowded genre of games. A thematic rarity warrants closer inspection, doesn't it?
The player can choose between a basic sandbox game, customise his world concerning size and shape of the continents, and given environmental issues or compete with another human or computer player for economic or military supremacy. In each of the cases, the game begins pretty much the same way: With an empty planet. Empty as far as human-made constructions are concerned at least.
This is what you are going to change. Like in Sim City, you assign land squares for city settlement. Global Effect does not distinguish between residential, commercial and industrial areas; instead, it allows for a larger diversity in the infrastructure buildings. It's not just power, residential areas also have to be complemented by water processing, waste disposal, farms and so on. And what kind of power will you attempt to tap into anyway? Wind and solar energy will not cause any problems with emmission, but they don't supply a whole lot of power. Oil, coal and nuclear power require mines/rigs and appropriate processing plants first. Where necessary, appropriate tubing has to be taken care of as well.
As long as the general framework you have built up allows for it, your city will grow by itself. Sounds good? You'll soon find that it isn't. A population boom can also tip the ecological balance over quickly. Forests being cut down makes the climate change happen slowly, but surely. More and more poison will be pumped into the atmosphere. So in an interesting change from most of the genre, Global Effect introduces the notion of controlling growth.
Graphically, the main part of the game (the map) is functional. The structures can be distinguished well enough. The different stats and map overlays are easy to grasp and provide all the necessary information needed to play the game successfully. Just that there is a strange overlap between game contents and game interface. The main limiting factor to all the player's actions is power. It is needed not only to build things, but also to generate certain environmental or economical reports and even to scroll the map. This certainly raise some eyebrows with first-time players…
Nevertheless, Global Effect is a challenging game which manages to wrap an important lesson into an entertaining package: The fact that there is a limit to today's seemingly universally accepted growth paradigm. Be prepared for a steep learning curve (in which you will need to consult the manual constantly), but it is worth it!
P.S. Why is there a watch in the game's box? Isn't this a bit of a… unrelated gimmick?