LEM Simulator Reviewby: Kris Keilhack
July 5th, 2006
LEM Sim is a detail-oriented, realistic simulator of Apollo moon landings. The developer claims this is the most realistic Palm lunar landing simulator available. Its aim is to realistically simulate the Apollo moon landing mission.
I primarily played version 1.0 for the purposes of this review. However, I did manage to spend a bit of time with the the recently released 2.0 update and have amended some areas of this article.
Read on for a brief overview (note: all comments apply to version 1.0 unless specifically noted) of my impressions of this title targeted squarely at space buffs and NASA trainees.
LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) is not a title for the faint-of-heart or casual gamer. This is what I consider a “hardcore” title that could possibly find its widest audience amongst non-gamers usually put off by twitch-oriented fare.
There are primarily two modes of gameplay in version 1.0: Approach Phase and Final Landing phase. I found both modes equally challenging. Game difficulty levels range from Rookie to Pilot to Commander.
LEM keeps track of high scores for those players good enough to actually score points in the game! Version 2.0 adds a number of configurable options such as mechanical failures, fuel shortages and much more. All of the improvements in 2.0 go a long way toward drastically extending the replay factor over the older 1.0 iteration.
Graphics & Sound
LEM’s graphics are basic but functional. I found all of the onscreen menus and gauges clearly designed, colorful and easy to read. The highlight of the “gameplay” graphics would be the artificial horizon gauge and the nicely digitized image of the moon’s surface. A nice splash screen appears on startup showing a scene from the Apollo moon landing and a quote from J.F.K.
Sounds are quite atmospheric and one of the few instances in a Palm OS game where the audio outshines the graphics. Realistic digitized voices of Houston control room operators come through the internal speaker loud and clear. My (frequent) crashes resulted in an explosion that sounds far more impressive than it looks onscreen.
LEM 2.0’s graphics have seen a considerable improvement over version 1.0. There is much more onscreen animation and more detail to the overall cockpit perspective. Version 2.0’s graphics capabilities make you wonder if a rudimentary flight simulator might be possible under the same engine…
Despite leaving everything in automatic mode and making judicious use of thrusters, I never was able to make a perfect lunar landing. This is precisely why I prefer twitchy arcade shooters to detail-oriented simulators such as this one. The Palm’s 5-way navigator controller capably handles approach angle and descent velocity. This is a game whose controls are easily learned but not quickly mastered.
I encountered no problems running LEM 1.0 or 2.0 off of my SD card. Version 1.0 takes up ~750k and 2.0 takes up ~824k. That is a small price in storage space to pay for the updated version containing much more depth and enhanced visual elements. LEM 1.0 and 2.0 run on all 320 x 320 Palm OS 5.2 or newer devices. I encountered no problems on a TX or Treo 700p.
Quite frankly, this is not the sort of game that appeals to my personal tastes at all. I wouldn’t even have reviewed this title had Ryan not suggested it. That said, it was interesting to take a look at a title that deviates from the action & puzzle titles usually seen on Palm OS.
I am certain that there are many space simulator buffs out there that will flip over a title like this but I’m just not one of them. Patience is a virtue for simulators and I honestly have little of it when looking for a quick portable gaming fix. Of course, I highly respect the amount of time and passion put into crafting this game by its developer. Version 2.0’s improvements do go a long way toward making LEM more of a “real” title. Indeed, 2.0 paints positive signs that will help future versions of this engrossing title expand a bit past its current niche audience.
Rating (if you’re like me and prefer action & arcade titles):
2.5 / 5 stars