Descent to Deadrock
Phoenix Online/ Red Herring
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
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
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
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.
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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