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OK, so you're the king of the forest - make that rainforest. Now what are you going to do?

You'd better decude fast because there are miners, petrochemical companies, endangered species, tourists, polluters, ecologists, natural disasters and even UGOs, all vying for your attention - and for your resources.

With teams of agents at your command, you'll embark on missions to determine the fate of a series of island rainforests. You'll control the balance between ecology and economy. You'll decide who survives and who goes extinct. And when all is said and done, you'll be king of the rainforest - or of a wasteland.
  • As you explore the rainforest, your discoveries are recorded in your notebook - a valuable information resource.
  • You'll face hundreds of life and death decisions.
  • You'll have teams of agents - each with individual talents and skills - at your disposal.
  • Video clips and photographs will shoe you real rainforest plants and animals.
  • Free form mode lets you set your own agenda for building or exploring.
  • Sound effects recorded in rainforests will make you feel like you're really there - wild animal sounds so realistic, you'll shiver.
  • Exotic musical soundtrack puts you in the mood.
~ from the back of the box

Maxis must have had too much on their plate circa 1995, as they outsourced the development of SimIsle: Missions in the Rainforest to relative newcomers Intelligent Games. The creators of Azrael's Tear had only one other game to their name; Imperium from 1990. Like SimFarm, SimHealth and SimTower before it, they took a very different approach to the well-established SimFormula.

As a game, SimIsle is far more complex than its peers - perhaps the most mechanically detailed the series has been outside of SimCity. You can still build structures, but this is no mere sandbox city-builder. You don't select houses from a drop-down or side menu, but send Bob the builder off into the rainforest with some orders. He's the first "Agent" at your command and will begin each mission at the island's Headquarters. There's one on every map and it is here where you can hire other employees, each with their own function and skillset. As well as Bob the builder, we have workers trained in negotiation, industry, employment, local ecology and forestry. There are 24 individually named characters in all, of which you can hire a maximum of 10 at any one time. What they do isn't explained particularly well in the game, so it's left to the manual to teach the basics. It's even necessary when playing the archipelago of tutorial islands. Even so, it's worth printing off those manual pages and giving these stages a go as the game plays very differently to others of its kind.

The Notebook contains a lot of detail, but not much that will help with gameplay (left).
Click on Bob the builder's jeep to see what he - and he alone - can build (right).

Take building as an example. First, you'll need to select old Bob from the roster. Then, click on the jeep icon so you can direct him to any point on the map. Once he's there, you can click on the vehicle's spite on the main game screen to bring up a list of possible buildings. Depending on where you are, you may not be able to build everything - for example, ports need to be near water - and whether it gets finished at all is down to your resources such as wood or coal.

Resources are gathered by putting mines, mills and other industrial factories to good use, but these come at the expense of the natural beauty around you. They need to be manned too, and this is where the game gets a little imperial. Local villages indigenous to the area scatter each island, and their main purpose is to provide manual labour. You can even teach them the ways of the West by sending over Negotiation Agents like Billy the missionary Priest or put them to work in the coal mines using an Employment Agent like the exploitative sombrero-wearing Paul.

Select one of 30 missions from the main map screen. There's one on each island (left).
You can change the viewing angle to get a better view of the island (right).

If there's one thing SimIsle has in common with the other SimSpinoffs, it's in its educational bent. You will learn about eco-systems, mining natural resources and conservation, but in truth it's all tucked away in the very wordy Notebook. Unless you peruse its pages you won't see much more than the strategic management sim on your monitor.  The first proper island in the campaign has you tasked with building up tourism while locating and transporting an endangered species found somewhere at this location. Tourist traps are easy to understand with Bob building attractions to lure in holiday-makers, but I couldn't figure out how to find those endangered species. Could Ian from Local Ecology lend a hand? Or perhaps Karen from Flora & Forestry has the right knowledge.

Personally, I couldn't get on with the game, despite thinking that there's some great stuff in there. I found what could've been an interesting mechanic with the agents cumbersome and unintuitive with little in-game explanation on how to do anything. Had I spent more time with it, it could easily develop into a rewarding old-school business sim, but it's far too impenetrable for casual players used to the more traditional likes of SimCity.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox-X build of DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 174 Mb.  Install Size: 378 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


SimIsle: Missions in the Rainforest is © Maxis, Inc
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. Those one-off sim games are so fascinating, I want to test them all.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for the review! I definitely remember this one for its educational qualities, as it was the game that had my dad frustratedly trying to explain the concept of profit to a six year old!

    Everything you've written about it is familiar, from its opaque lack of self-explanation to its strange and mysterious allure. If I could add one thing, it's that you'd be surprised how uniquely thrilling it is in this game for a elusive button to build X or do Y to finally switch from greyed out to available!

    Exploiting the local population, wildife and environment didn't sit entirely right with me even as a nipper, although of course I didn't understand the reasons why at the time. I wouldn't call it a flaw exactly, as this message emerges through the mechanics and I doubt being forthrightly preachy would have had the intended effect.

    All in all a very interesting game that eschewed standard genre conventions and formulas to do its own thing, for better and for worse.