Oolite

Space trading game Elite is a legend among old-school gamers. First published in 1984 for the BBC Micro, David Braben and Ian Bell’s game swiftly became one of the most successful of its time, with versions available for every major platform. Oolite is a modern, open-source trading game for Mac OS X ‘inspired’ by Elite.

Oolite (Object Oriented Elite) is as addictive and compelling today as Elite was in 1984. Part of that is due to the original’s prescient design. You take the part of a space trader, piloting a starship through a 3D universe complete with fully realised solar systems, planets, space pirates and rival traders. With ships and planets updated for the 21st century with OpenGL support, the gameplay is similar to the original but graphically superior in every way.

There are several different elements to Oolite. The main objective is to trade goods between planets, earn money and pimp your space ship. You start with a meagre vessel and can upgrade equipment and ships as you progress. When in flight you’ll have to fend off raiders intent on stealing your cargo. The space scraps are thrilling and disorientating; with 360 degrees of manoeuvrability in three dimensions, you’ll really need the on-screen radar. If you’re successful in battle there’s still the possibility that poor piloting could end your career as you come into dock.

OUR VERDICT

Developer Giles Williams recently announced that the October 2006 release, version 1.65, will be the last but Oolite won’t age or wither. The core program is fully extensible with new ships, missions and planets – and the universe you explore in Oolite is completely open ended. This game’s a blast from the past that’s been rebuilt to last. Grab it now.

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