I ended up with very mixed feelings about this game.
The first half was terrific. You are David Walker, part of the Apollo 19 moon landing, but an encounter with a “bright light” kills everyone but you. You attempt to contact Houston, and the next thing you know you wake up … somewhere. It appears to be a wrecked cabin, suitably decorated with dead bodies, one distinctly alien. In fact, the big floating globe suggests the whole place is alien.
So the first part of the game is involved in finding out where you are and what the hell is going on. You have to pull switches and press buttons to activate all manner of alien technology, dodge and outwit sophisticated security devices, avoid the odd firefight, crawl through the air ducts (it wouldn’t be a truly alien experience if you didn’t have to crawl through an air duct) and only once deal with a timed sequence - not an unreasonable one given that a security drone is after you.
There are lots of puzzles, all revolving around the technology, and they were well fitted into the game. How else do you work out what is going on in an alien base if you don’t press and pull and fiddle? Only once did I think that the answer defied logic - generally, I felt confident of picking at the problem till I worked it out.
The game is third person point and click animated, and the graphics are excellent. It felt and looked sci-fi. There is a mysterious story in there too, revolving around long dead races, alien technologies, abductions and The Ward. So far so good.
But the second half left me distinctly frustrated. By the end I had reached for Witchen’s walkthru just to see how it finished.
The contrast between the two halves is extraordinary. Apart from one encounter with an alien faction in the first half, you are on your own. No interaction, no dialogue, just lots of poking around. The second half however ends up feeling like one big dialogue tree. Not just lots of characters, but lots of dialogue. You have to read it all, and there is vast amounts of it. I have never taken so many notes. Great slabs of information are imparted, then you have to do something or find the right person to generate the next big slab.
And the puzzles become somewhat diabolical. Sliders abound, including one which is part of a timed sequence. There are timed sequences all over the place, made all the more unnerving by the clock ticking down in the top left corner. Except for the ones where you don’t know you are being timed until you die. And the convoluted sequence of events at the end (which it seems if you don’t do in the right order, or fast enough for the game, ends up killing you) was what drove me to the walkthru.
It is also rather unbalanced. You spend a huge amount of time (and dialogue) to advance the plot a small amount, then a cut scene takes the plot a quantum leap forward in 1 minute flat.
You can skip the sliders by playing in easy mode (the game will solve it for you), and a walkthru will get you through most of the timed puzzles (although one at least you must be fleet of finger to achieve). But you will still need lots of perseverance to get to the end.
Overall, the sum of the parts was a bit disappointing, more so because of the great start. But if you want a challenge, and can cope with dying, (and writing) give it a go, particularly if you are a sci-fi fan. The plot, the look, and the feel will sustain you for a very long way in this game.
[This message has been edited by flotsam (edited 05-28-2001).]
Quantity has a quality all of its own