J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars


Genre:   Adventure

Developer &  Publisher:    CBE Software

Released:  September 2014

PC Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows 7 and Higher
  • Processor: Intel i5 or equivalent
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Resolution of 1920x1080 with at least 512 MB VRAM accelerated card
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Hard Drive: 4 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible soundcard
  • Additional screenshots   Walkthrough



    by flotsam

    J.U.L.I.A: Among The Stars

    CBE Software

    A while back I reviewed the first J.U.L.I.A and you can pop on over and see what I said. In short, while it had its ups and downs, I thought it delivered about 8 hours of thoughtful, enjoyable, story driven science fiction, a good number of well-crafted and varied puzzles, and some excellent looking cutscenes. +-

    Now we have Among the Stars, not a sequel or a prequel, but a reworked version of the original. Not just a new frock either; this is a complete overhaul, Pretty Woman style.

    It is fundamentally the same game, and if you played the earlier version, many things will be familiar. However CBE (which I assume is still Cardboard Box Entertainment) clearly listened to what people said about the first version, and in effect did away with many of the “downs” while accentuating and building on the “ups”. The result is a good one indeed.

    First up, the central character Rachel Manners is now far more person than yappy marionette, and whiny is now sassy. As a result I felt far more empathy for her and her plight, and never once thought of sticking her out an airlock.

    Rachel is the sole human left on board a deep space probe, designed and equipped to meet and study extra-terrestrial sentient life-forms. There were others, but after 60 years of cryo sleep it isn’t at all clear what has become of them. Once Rachel has dealt with the results of the meteor strike that roused her from her slumber, the nearby planets may offer some insight into what has gone on.

    She may be the only human but she isn’t alone. J.U.L.I.A is the artificial intelligence that manages the probe, and she provides a constant source of analysis, logic and idle chit chat. Then there is Mobot, the go anywhere (albeit with a bit of nudging and cajoling) planetary exploration vehicle. He is the means to explore each planet, sending back a stream of data and samples for interpretation and speculation.

    It is clear early on that a tragedy, or series of tragedies, has befallen the expedition. What that might be is revealed in scraps, ferreted out through your exploration of the various locations. Data pads, scribbled notes, the emails and other messages are all bits of what is ultimately a very large set of events. While there is a lot to read, it would be a shame to flick through it just to trigger the key points of progress. The plot is detailed, perhaps a little overly so, but it will reward a careful consideration.

    All good science fiction has hints of paranoia and hysteria, and they are both present here. Much of it is within the notes left behind, and many don’t paint your previous companions in a good light. The finger of suspicion is pointed by and at quite a few, and more than one looks like they met their demise through less than natural circumstances.

    (Some characters deserve special mention, if only because you would think that space faring folk on a scientific mission would have more respect for security than to have such weak, albeit appropriate, passwords!)

    You will eventually encounter other beings, and have choices to make about a few of them. Scientist or humanist will come up more than once, and the end will depend upon you.

    The graphics seemed much refreshed from the last incarnation, playing in HD and with nary a ho-hum screen in sight. The detail enables some serious hunter/gathering, but a reveal hotspot icon ensures you won’t be pixel scouring the environments. A log keeps track of your objectives and your important information, with a little chime registering that you have learned something which will be useful, likely a code for a door or a data pad. If you don’t have the code you can always try a hack, or even a blow torch once you have upgraded Mobot to that end.

    Upgrades take place on the workbench once you find the relevant blueprint, and involve building what can best be described as circuit boards. There are four or five of these, and a number of other puzzles repeat as well. There aren’t however the same mini-games that were part of the earlier version, but you do have a little timing puzzle that may frustrate for a while.

    Mobot can still have his head torn off by the very large beast, but it seemed to me to be a far more forgiving interaction. Each failure results in more time on the next attempt, and once you work out the puzzle sequence, time really won’t matter.

    The puzzles are many and varied, and while there were a few towards the end that did seem a little too dependent on trial and error, on the whole I thought they made sense, if sometimes after the fact. Each puzzle comes with a screen which will explain what to do, which at times will be less enlightening than it might be, but methodical and thoughtful puzzling will generally get you through.  Some are really rather excellent, and the best ones are still there - double letter code decipher and reassembling the memory images are, to name two. 

    Like last time, things learned in one place or planet may be needed on another, so if you seemingly have no way forward, go and explore somewhere else. You will find plenty of things you need, but Mobot will just make the right item available for use if he has it, so inventory management isn’t really a factor. Not everything is necessary; I did do a lot of sample analysis that wasn’t required for things to progress, but it added to the depth of the narrative and alien worlds, and there are some “mind maps” you can complete, but which you can also ignore should you wish to do so.

    J.U.L.I.A. is not a vastly different game, but it is a more polished game. I never did find out what it stood for, but whatever it is it warrants your attention.

    Grade: B++

    I played on:

    OS: Windows 7

    Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

    Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz

    Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb

    The game is offered DRM free at the developer's store here.

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