Via Sol 2
Via Sol 2 is the latest from scratchware auteur Helmi Bastami, whose Flyborg Games site champions the slogan "New Media, New World". It's appropriate considering the subject matter of Via Sol. You play the president of a colony of human refugees who have escaped the calamity of Earth to create a new home on a planet whose orbit keeps it on the opposite side of the sun. Hence the name "Via Sol", which means "through the sun" in Latin. The game is a casual-ified Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri-type management game, which is so much more fun than it sounds.
In Via Sol 2 you try and maintain housing, food, material and electrical supplies to keep the population from becoming upset. If everyone gets too unhappy they revolt and depose you, but if they're content you'll be hailed as a savior. Gameplay is extremely simple: just build the right stuff to maintain the balance and keep up population growth. Simply click on a square next to one with a building then choose which construction to start. Every building carries a cost in electricity or ore, creating a very intricate cause and effect web.
Analysis: The game is deep for a web-based title, a testament to what you can do with good design. Each building has a futuristic mystique that makes you want to build them simply because they look good arrayed around the world. Your own little pet utopia. Of course the temptation to install a police state always looms as well as mass-starvation and sweeping brown-outs.
For all its compulsively fun gameplay, Via Sol 2 isn't content to simply entertain, it's also a satirical game with a political message. Text dialogues are thrown at you from time to time that touch on cynical notions of corporate corruption and shadow government.
Basing the game on manufactured happiness, where a "Faux News" company can be more useful to your survival as a leader than a nuclear power plant, flavors Via Sol 2 with a decidedly anti-establishment notion that deceit rather than genuine interest in the population's well-being is the fuel behind the fires. Also consider that it's possible to avoid building any houses while you climb the tech tree and get your industrial base in order. The unhappiness caused by homelessness isn't too great for an extra toy factory to counter.
Via Sol 2 is a sarcastic, witty and sometimes poignant look at society hidden behind gameplay that blends deep strategy with simple mechanics. If you aren't careful, you'll lose many hours to this little gem.