BY JAMES BOTTORFF
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Do you ever long for the good old days, when computer games came on 5 1/4-inch floppies and all activity was initiated by the keyboard?
Well, yearn no more. Starship Titanic recreates the text-based adventure reminiscent of the days when games didn't require gobs of RAM and weekly computer upgrades.
Titanic brings the text-based adventure into the 1990s with the use of a dynamic language engine that pulls from 14 hours of dialogue and 12,000 popular references. This allows you to have intelligent conversations with a host of robotic characters inhabiting the ship.
Conversation is the heart of the game. In order to complete your missions you must solve a multitude of tough, illogical puzzles. The clues yielded through these talks are your only hope as you travel throughout the ship seeking solutions.
Unfortunately, the navigation doesn't lend itself to ship-traversing puzzles. There's no quick way back to previously visited spots. You are forced to repeatedly retrace your steps. It's a major inconvenience, since often your actions in one room yield results in another.
It's especially frustrating when you find yourself moving from floor to floor. Elevator rides are real-time and don't allow user interaction. If you have to travel to the 30th floor or beyond, be prepared, you'll be watching an hourglass icon for a long time.
This wouldn't be so bad if the graphics were good enough to keep you occupied, but they're not. The photo-realistic images are well designed, but the animation is at best, crude. Every time you move, the screen serves up a blurry, animated transition that seems to serve no purpose other than to slow the game down. Also, the character's movements are often out-of-sync with the dialogue.
If the animation doesn't bother you, the sound surely will. Carnival-like music greets you upon entering each new room. The music, meant to evoke a surreal feeling, is just plain annoying. The 10 second clips are replayed over and over again. It took me all of one minute before I reached for my speakers' off switch.
Although Titanic is full of shortcomings it does have one thing going for it -- Douglas Adams' wit. Adams, author of '' A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,'' wrote and produced the game. Like his books, there is a funny and often sarcastic tone to the conversations.
I especially like the casting of Monty Python's Terry Jones as a temperamental parrot. But as funny as he is, its not enough to save this game from sinking.
Starship Titanic should be commended for trying to bring back a game style that has long since been forgotten. It sounds like a good idea, combining today's high-tech graphics with yesterday's text-based gaming.
Too bad that they mix about as well as cruise liners and icebergs.