SIM Hillary. (Maxis' SimHealth, ID Software's DOOM: Knee-Deep in the Dead to Capital City) (Gameplay) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
A computer game that's educational, socially relevant, and entertaining? That's what Maxis and The Markle Foundation have created with SimHealth: A Democracy and Society Computer Simulation. SimHelath puts you behind the desk of a person elected to run the nation's healthcare system. You have a diverse assortment of policies to choose from: You can experiment with the current U.S. health system or implement a government-, employer-, or citizen-funded universal health program. There are several cost-control programs you can implement, including salary and budget caps, preset rate bases, HMO programs, and malpractice reforms. And you can choose whether to ration and manage healthcare, as well as whether to fund expensive advanced treatments.
Although all of these choices sound a bit complicated, the game features detailed online help, along with an informative and witty manual. Coupled with Maxis's typically cozy mouse-driven reference information makes learning about the complex issues underlying out nation's health system unintimidating. Still, you come away from the game appreciating why it took the White House crew longer than expected to firm up its proposal for revamping the system. (That proposal is one of the many that you can simulate in SimHealth).
If you enjoyed SimCity, you'll probably like SimHealth. The actual gameplay is very similar--you adjust various aspects of a complex system and watch how the results affect economy and efficiency, as well as your own popularity as an elected official.
SimHealth was created by Maxis but was funded by a $350,000 investment by The Markle Foundation, a charitable organization whose goal is to use modern communication techniques to improve public education, public discussion, and public policy. If you want a better understanding of how various healthcare reform proposals will affect you, you'll find SimHelath a fun way to learn. The product retails for $39.95, but it can be purchased directly from The Markle Foundation for $29.95 by calling (800) U-CHANGE.
We're DOOMed. If Congress is concerned now about the level of violence in electronic entertainment, let's hope nobody mails a copy of DOOM: Knee-Deep in the Dead to Capitol Hill. This latest blastfest from ID Software (creator of Wolfenstein 3-D) is a graphic extravaganza that's completely free of the kinds of redeeming societal values found in SimHealth--unless you can find social value in cutting up mutant undead solidiers with a chain saw.
There's not much to describe in DOOM's gameplay. You wander through a planetary base shooting and incinerating various zombies and monsters with a variety of weapons. There are a few puzzles in the game--mainly finding switches and hidden passage-ways needed to move from level to level. As the game progresses, you'll upgrade your simple pistol to more powerful--and more gruesomely effective--weapons such as shotguns, chain guns, and rocket launchers.
That's not to say that DOOM is boring, though. No computer game you've ever seem has graphics and sound like this. Three-dimensional texture-mapped buildings, the smoothest scrolling you've ever seen, and tension-building -
sound effects draw you into DOOM's reality. The game is ultraviolent, with monster guts splattered throughout the levels as you play. I hesitantly admit feeling a perverse sense of pleasure when I figured out how to make a monster's guts actually bespatter the walls. This isn't the game to let your your children play when you're trying to teach them the evils of violence, as DOOM definitely glorifies it.
If you have a modem, you can sample the shareware first chapter of DOOM:w Knee-Deep in the Dead free of charge by downloading it from a local BBS or an online service. Upon paying the $40 registration fee, you'll receive disks containing the first chapter along with the two nonshareware sequels, The Shore of Hell and Inferno. A retail version of the DOOM trilogy should appear in computer stores soon.