Posted by: Rushes
A First Look at: J.U.L.I.A. - 08/02/11 06:27 AM
A First Look at: J.U.L.I.A.
The year is 2430 AD. The location: a solar system foreign to our own. Rachel Manners, astrobiologist, awakes from a decades-long cryogenic sleep to discover that she is alone on a badly damaged interstellar probe; the sole survivor of an elite group of scientists on an expedition to encounter and communicate with alien life forms.
Rachel's only companions now are “J.U.L.I.A.”, the probe's artificial intelligence, and Mobot, a reconnaissance robot. The probe has been hit by a meteor storm and needs urgent repair – Rachel must carry out the repairs and then begin her quest to discover what became of her group.
The space probe currently inhabits a new solar system with six very different planets to visit and explore, and many dangers and challenges to overcome.
J.U.L.I.A. was created and developed by CBE, the two-man team of Jan Kavan (Ghost in the Sheet) and Lukáš Medek.
The game environments are visually stunning, quite often beautiful. When a cut scene plays, the level of detail is impressive. The player is not awarded free-wheeling exploration, but instead is presented with a series of fixed screens offering multiple choices on how to react or interact, and if we might progress North or East, etc. The game points us in the right direction, but remains non-linear in that it is possible to visit any of the six planets in order of choosing. I enjoyed the interaction with the alien creatures, and was moved by their plight. The dialogue is well written and emotive.
The main screen graphic is fixed, with an inset of the character currently speaking at the top left of the screen, and Mobot's viewpoint appearing at the bottom left. Narration and dialogue/action trees appear to the right, reminiscent (to me) of the old text adventures.
J.U.L.I.A. utilises no inventory system; items are automatically retrieved and used by Mobot as necessary. The puzzles (and J.U.L.I.A. is a fairly puzzle-heavy game) are striking in their originality, and even the more familiar of them are given a new twist; an edge. There is a pleasing scale of difficulty; a number are head-scratchers indeed, but their solutions are always logical and simply require contemplation. Logic puzzles, schematics, image assembly, decryption, and an ingenious ice maze are just some of the varieties which await. Several of the more difficult challenges offer a skip feature. All puzzles offer a helpful explanation box.
There are two possible game endings, and a life-changing decision to be made.
First Look verdict
J.U.L.I.A. is one of the most enjoyable games I have played in a considerable while. I was genuinely sorry to see it end.
When will it be available?
J.U.L.I.A. will be available in download format some time in 2011 (date to be confirmed).