Starship Titanic

Let’s start off on the right foot. I like me an adventure game. I like puzzles, I like object puzzles, occassionaly pixel hunting is fun, and nothing makes my day more than insult duelling.

I have a boxed copy of this game, but as with so many other games from the 1990s, have no means of playing the original easily without sacrificing many, many chickens. So when Gog released it, ready to run on modern platforms, I grabbed.

Towel at the ready, I dove in.

And this was the first mistake I made.

This game is … terrible.

Sorry Douglas. I love you, but I can not forgive this. It’s an abomonation on gaming, and commits some of the worst sins I’ve ever experienced in an adventure title.

The humour never seems to sit quite right. It doesn’t feel like DNA humour, it feels a little more pythonesque (possibly not helped with a few Python cast members lending their voices) and there’s a complete lack of literate humour. All the robots are irritating. Irritating. And I don’t mean in a way that leaves your diodes hurting down the left side. Just irritating.

You can shut up the bomb. I heartily recommend doing this before you punch your screen.

The interface uses a mix of point and click, point and hover, point and hope and text parsing. It attempts to blend too many things together. There are timing puzzles that require you to action one item and very quickly action another. In one case, you have milliseconds to do a second action, and you have to know to do it in the first place. The trail of plot is not obvious, and it’s far too easy to end up wondering “well what the hell am I doing next?” And I’m not even going to broach the bit where you’re slapping the waiter in to submission.

The text parsing engine makes Zork look advanced. Some questions can only be asked one very precise way to get the correct answer. There are some environment objects that you can’t directly interact with, despite first appearances, and require the assistance of one of the bots. This would be fine if, IF, there was any indication that you needed the assistance. There is none. Just flail around until you either guess or reach for the walkthrough.

Some of the puzzles are fine. They’re logical, and solvable. Some of them are not puzzles, they’re exercises in furstration and hope. The worst thing you can be in an adventure game is unpredictable. If I do a thing and something happens, I either expect it to happen again or have a good reason for not happening. A three pixel bounding box of non-obvious hope is neither of this.

When games are this frustrating, there’s often a pay off in story. A reason to cut through the frustration, to persist, or play along to see things develop. There is zero development in this game. You arrive on the ship, solve a few dozen (very frustrating) puzzles, and arrive home. That is it. There’s a /little/ bit of backstory if you go digging, but don’t expect a novel hidden underneath here, there isn’t one. Just a thin framework to hang some puzzles from. Which makes it even harder to finish, since there’s no drive to continue. Just tedium.

I’m sorry I can’t report anything happier. It’s shit. Interface is pants, puzzles are unpredictable, story is so thin you can see right through it. I wouldn’t even recommend it for nostalgia value, save the frustration and go listen to some of the H2G2 radio plays. It’s much better value for money.