Space Station Silicon Valley
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
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
- To quickly align the camera behind you, switch into first-person
view, then right back out.