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Developed by:
DMA Designs
Published by:
Take 2 Interactive
Genre: Adventure
Number of Players: 1
ESRB: Everyone


Getting Started:.........9/10

The Good Press:
Great sense of humor and lots of creatures to play, breaks nicely from the platform mold.

The Bad Press:
So-so graphics and music, not very large.

Space Station Silicon Valley
Reviewed by Josh Wolf

The weirdest platform game you'll ever play.

I suppose that it was only logical, after I reviewed DMA's Body Harvest, that the next game to fall in my lap would be their subsequent release, Space Station Silicon Valley. Toward the end of that review, I lamented that Body Harvest had the makings of a truly great game, yet came up a bit short on the delivery. I knew that DMA Design was no flash in the pan--I had, after all, lost many hours in college to (excessive partying and sleeping and) the brilliant Lemmings. Surely, I thought, their next game would come closer to delivering on its promise. Is SSSV the game I've been waiting, if only briefly, for?

Well, I don't think that Banjo-Kazooie is in any imminent danger of losing its status of reigning king of N64 platform games. But Space Station Silicon Valley shines as an easily overlooked gem in the genre. It's so utterly weird that it manages to be something that most platforms aren't--cool. Sure, big-name platforms like Mario 64 and Banjo offer superb graphics and massive levels, but let's face it: roly-poly plumbers and a nauseatingly happy bear are not cool. SSSV showed me something that was actually cool to play: a little racing dog. With rockets.

If the thought of cruising around as a rocket-laden mutt is raising your eyebrows, consider the game's premise: in the year 2001, a space station populated by robotic animals vanishes just after launch. A thousand years later, it reappears. You and your partner Dan Danger have been sent to investigate. The game's hilarious opening sequence relates the circumstances of your disastrous arrival, which results in your accidentally running over Roger the dog as he and his main squeeze Flossie profess their mutual love. Did I mention that Flossie is a sheep?

Thanks to your buddy Dan, you've been shattered into pieces during the crash. The good news is that you're a robot and can be put in a new body. The bad news is that the only available one belongs to Roger, the dog you just smooshed. To make matters just plain twisted, part of your goal during the first round is to kill a sheep. Poor Flossie, being right there to witness her lover's demise, makes as good a munching target as any. Oh, the epic tragedy of it all!

Since virtually every other thing that moves on the station is a robotic animal, your robotic nature gives you the handy ability to assume the body of anything you can beat in battle. This includes rats, turtles, bears, boxing kangaroos, snowball-chucking penguins, and piranhas. Each robot has two special moves, often one for attack and one for movement. Different robots also have varying levels of tolerance for things like falling and being underwater. While some robots are definitely more powerful than others, DMA did a good job of spicing up SSSV so that you often need to use multiple robots to complete a mission. The sheep, for instance, are total wusses against any enemy, but their ability to float comes in mighty handy when you need to jump across some lava.

The five levels of SSSV are broken up into discrete, mission-based chunks. You are teleported to the beginning of each stage and given your orders. Upon completing the tasks, another teleporter activates for your exit. True to the platform genre, there are "tokens" for you to gather on each level; in this case, it's power cells to help repair your original body. There is no reward for gathering all the cells on a stage, like another life (you only get one), so their inclusion is little more than a distraction. The actual missions, however, are another story. DMA avoids the familiar "flip a switch, find a door" formula in Dan Danger's mission orders. Rather, the player is treated to such sublimely goofy introductions as, "The electric fence is linked to the Big Machine. Play around with it and see what happens.... Oh yeah--and bring me back something soft and fluffy to hug."

Fortunately, we are all spared the scene of a him actually hugging something soft and fluffy.

None of the individual stages are very large, which gives SSSV less of an exploratory nature than other platform games. There are, to be sure, "off the beaten path" areas and bonus items to pick up for extra points, but the urge to finish the level and move on proved much greater to me than the weak payoff of, usually, extra points. Who keeps track of points in a platform game anyway? The puzzles are, however, often clever and generally do not rely on precisely timed movement combinations. Instead, they require you to figure out which robotic critter can best handle the job.

SSSV does suffer, unfortunately, from a few basic problems. Graphically, it's colorful, but often blocky. The robots themselves could have especially used a bit more work. The rotating camera often wound up in the most inconvenient angle possible after running around, forcing me to compensate manually. The cheesy, old-school video game music could also have been better as well. In a neat little bit of functionality, however, robots with sufficiently powerful attacks can blow up the speakers around the station to shut off the music. As a last gripe, Take 2 should have fronted more money for a better manual.

What DMA does deliver on, however, is snappy gameplay. I never felt the game slow down, and it features a solid physics model to simulate falling, swimming, and sliding. The puzzles are fun and challenging, but not so much that I ever felt stuck in one place for hours on end. Clearly, DMA was more focused on bringing us a good-playing game rather than a good-looking one.

As the market gets more and more saturated with platform games that look great but play like steaming piles of doo doo, SSSV kept brining me back for more. Every stage brought a new surprise, and the game's humor is top notch. Where else could I play a bomb-dropping rabbit with helicopter ears and a rat who drops exploding turds? When again will I ever have the opportunity to play a cod fish? Although SSSV has a rating indicating that it's suitable for all ages, younger children might be turned off by its offbeat sense of humor. Older kids, adult-sized kids, and anyone who's laughed at Mystery Science Theater 3000, on the other hand, should have a blast.

If you're looking for a game to show off the horsepower of your Nintendo 64, this ain't it. If you want a game that will keep you occupied until Star Wars I comes out, wait for Banjo Tooie. Don't be fooled by the numbers, though--SSSV aims for your funny bone as well as your trigger finger, and it balances both well in a wild ride. What's more, it may just go down in history as the best game to play on a buzz--as you get stupider, the game just gets funnier. And it's still great the next morning when you're sober.


  • If you can't get somewhere, try getting there with a different creature.
  • To quickly align the camera behind you, switch into first-person view, then right back out.


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