Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Red Herring Labs

Publisher:    Phoenix Online

Released:  February 2015

Additional screenshots



by flotsam


Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

Phoenix Online/ Red Herring Labs

I have to say, this is a rather good point and click sci-fi adventure.

The opening and closing movies are high points, but most of what comes in between isn’t too far behind. The static screens could do with some movement, but the sound effects and the musical score compensate, and the “deadness” of the planet gives them an explicable basis. There are plenty of inventory based conundrums, occasionally somewhat illogical but by and large making sense, and some out and out puzzles, with a sequence towards the end involving alien symbols and turning things on and off that I particularly enjoyed. The voice acting is way better than ordinary, the plot never gets silly, and it’s a decent length.

Like I said, it’s a rather good point and click sci-fi adventure.

The opening sequence sets up the adventure to come. It reminded me a bit of parts of the start of the movie Pitch Black – you tumble onto the floor of what we quickly realise is a space ship with everything clearly not right. A quick trip to the cockpit finds the captain alive but skewered to his seat by a metal rod, the ship spinning towards the surface of a planet. You grab the controls, wrestle to bring the ship under control, and so we begin.

The game proper starts on the surface of the planet, and the game itself is essentially about fixing the ship and getting off the planet. It isn’t of course as straight forward as that, but you can discover the rest for yourself. Suffice to say that you learn very early on that you are on a planet called Deadrock, one that has been designated off limits by the UN because no one has ever returned. Fixing the ship is therefore likely to be the easy bit.

The first part of the game takes place inside the ship, which is initially one room until you work out a way to access more areas. This will involve unlocking doors, getting power to the lights, finding a way to clear a blocked room, and finding and retrieving all manner of items. Examine them, combine them, use them in interesting ways – this is an inventory based adventure through and through.

Eventually you get outside onto the planet’s surface, and about half a dozen locations will ultimately be available. A satmap will assist you to find them and access them, or you can wander the planet should you wish to do so.

There is more than one dead body around – it is called Deadrock remember – so clearly something went on. The Easter Island heads suggest someone else has been or is here.

Morningstar is played in the first person, and is entirely point and click mouse driven. Hotspots abound, each framed in a way that makes it feel like you are scanning an environment, all of them accompanied by a comment from Powell, the main character. You don’t have different action icons; just click the hotspot and whatever needs to happen will happen. You might search something, pick something up, open something etc. You would be well advised to search things more than once; Powell will tell you there is nothing more to find when that is the case.

I liked Powell. He was also a helpful chap. Trying to combine items in the inventory, which is a scrolling ribbon along the right side of the game screen, might elicit a comment from him about what one might actually do rather than what you just tried to do, as might trying to use an item in the game world. Examining items in the inventory can also be helpful. The radio button at the bottom, which puts you in touch with the wounded captain Novak, is also a “help” button to nudge you as to where to go or what to do next.

There are lots of items to find and use, and in all such games some solutions are a tad “out there”. As I indicated earlier however, they are, on the whole, logical and explicable, and capable of being worked out with a little thought, a comment or two from Powell, and some careful searching to make sure you have everything you need. You will likely go back over areas and locations to find things you missed, and particularly when you get to the planet’s surface, things you will need in one place will be found all over the planet. While you can’t leave the ship until everything necessary has been done, from then on it's pretty much open slather. If you haven’t found something somewhere you won’t be prevented from leaving the location until you have, and once you are aware of and/or have found the planetary locations you can (and will need to) go back and forth between them, trying to sort out what you need to do in order to progress. In that sense the game is fairly open, but there does appear to be only one path through the game.

I found a lot of things, and as far as I can recall used them all except the fairly obvious one you may find fairly early. It made me chuckle. So too did one or two conundrum solutions, and while it is a fairly solitary adventure, one or two exchanges between Powell and Zak got me smiling. It is a serious piece of sci-fi, but it knows the benefit of a light hearted moment or two.

The game saves automatically when you exit, and you just hit continue from the menu to pick up where you left off. You can choose to turn on or off the sound, the music and the speech (why you would want to do that I don’t know), but you should leave them all on. All speech has subtitles. There are no timed puzzles, no mazes, and you don’t die.

There was apparently an earlier flash version of this game, but things have changed. I mention that only because if you are stuck, searching for a walkthrough might well bring up one for that version which may or may not be helpful. I mention that because it happened to me, but the very responsive people at Phoenix quickly helped out. Many are the time I send emails to publishers which end up in the void, but not here. It deserves mentioning.

Finally, from the menu screen you can rewatch both the intro and the outro. I have to confess I am not sure whether the outro is now available because I got to the end and am playing again, or whether it was always there. If it was always there, leave it alone until you get there (to the end that is). Then watch it again, as it deserves it.

I have played some underwhelming games recently so this stood out. I feel confident in saying it would have done that anyway. Like I said, it’s a rather good sci-fi adventure.

Grade: B+

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB



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