Approximate Release Date: September 30, 1991
Genre: God game
Developer: Bullfrog Productions
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Populous is the OG god game.
As someone who never played Populous before, I was happy to see a tutorial option on the main screen. I was less happy to see that the tutorial doesn’t explain anything. I mean, look at this interface.
Tell me what’s going on in this user interface. There are 31 icons around the play area with varying degrees of legibility. For a game with “tutorial” in all caps on the main menu, it’s pretty ballsy to not explain anything. What does the arrow at the top mean? Why are there ankhs in the bottom left? If you got Populous in 1991 and didn’t also have the manual, I feel bad for you.
I think I figured it out, though. Your goal is to help your blue people build up a society and take over all of the red people’s land. This is done by raising and lowering the land around your people to give them space to build and grow. As your society progresses, you earn the ability to summon earthquakes and plagues; you know, god stuff. When you wipe out the red guys, you win!
SimCity was a successful port because thought went into how the experience was adapted to the Super Nintendo, and even if it wasn’t perfect, it was a valiant try. I just can’t imagine a reason to choose the SNES version of Populous over the probably superior personal computer editions. The cursor moves incredibly slow with the control pad, and the isometric perspective makes it difficult to select an exact space. The fact there are 20 buttons on the bottom of the screen makes the game unwieldy to play.
I do enjoy the terraforming gameplay, though. Reminds me of the time I would spend with SimCity 2000‘s land deformation tools trying to make the perfect plot of land for my city. But that was with a mouse, not a controller.
Tomorrow: Prepare to be judged in Super Bases Loaded