UGO

Review:

Starship Titanic
by The Digital Village/Simon & Shuster Interactive


Starship Titanic is an adventure game that comes to us from Douglas Adams, author of the popular "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series of novels. Known for his irreverent wit, Adams has produced a very funny adventure game. You're sitting at home, minding your own business and playing with your computer when suddenly the tiniest tip of the hull from a HUGE starship comes crashing through your home. An elevator opens up and a doorbot (sort of a doorman/robot) greets you. He tells you that the "Ship that cannot possibly go wrong" has gone wrong, and your help is needed. Up into the ship you go, and your adventure begins.

Your first job aboard the Starship Titanic is to acquire an upgrade from your third-class cabin into something more comfortable. Moving up in classes gives you access to more and more of the ship, where you can do the job you need to do. Upon investigation, it seems the ship's artificial intelligence has been disassembled and sabotaged, so your task will not be an easy one: find the missing parts, put them back together, and pilot the ship safely home. You'll meet some very interesting characters along the way, including a wiseass parrot that gives you nothing but grief. The rest of the beings on board are all robotic, and have personalities that are quite distinct. They're all quite funny and will amuse you as well as infuriate you.

The game graphics are incredibly well done. All of the environments and robots are rendered 3D objects, and look great. Animation is also well done, but moves slower than it should. At certain points within the game, the framerate slows down unnecessarily. Sounds are extremely well done, especially the voice acting - it's a totally professional job. The music is fantastic, and mixed in a way that is meaningful to the game itself. For instance, when you're in the elevator and moving through the cabin levels, the music plays the same tune, but the QUALITY of the sound changes as you pass through the different classes. In third class, the music is tinny, the quality improves as you move to second class, and in first class it sounds like a symphony. It's a really nice touch, and one that could easily go unnoticed.

Gameplay is typical adventure fare, roam around the ship, clicking on items to interact with them, put them into your inventory, etc. What isn't typical is the interaction with other characters. Starship Titanic uses a text parser. You heard me right, conversations take place by typing in your words and phrases. It's about a ten-year step backwards technology-wise, and it's every bit as annoying now as it was then. For those of you that don't remember text parsers, before the graphics revolution arrived on PCs, adventures were played by typing all of your conversation choices. This wouldn't have been such a bad thing, but there are points in each of those games where you would find it nearly impossible to perform an action because you couldn't find the exact words the program was looking for. You knew what you had to do, but had to word it precisely. Unfortunately, the same thing happens here. There is one particularly irritating spot where I knew exactly what I needed one of the robots to do, but couldn't word it so he would do it. I was wishing I were allowed to just do it myself, but for some reason I needed to make a robot do it using a specific phrase. Simply maddening. On the plus side, this was the only truly bad experience with the parser, and the rest of the game didn't rely on it so heavily. In fact, most of the game may be played out without using it at all.

Moving throughout the ship is simple. Locations are static pictures that you move in and around by clicking left, right, up, or down. Your view sweeps to that point of view and you interact with objects there. Selecting an item that may be carried moves directly to your inventory, and using one of these items is accomplished by clicking on the item and dragging it to the location where you want to use it. A simple enough concept, but I did find a few places where you needed to be too accurate with the item, or an action had to be repeated. The puzzles in Starship Titanic are clever and difficult, without being too difficult. While there are one or two illogical ones, most of them may be solved by using your sense of humor, rather than raw intelligence. Everything about the game is intended to be funny, and it works well in almost every case (being a Douglas Adams fan helps here). I mean, how can you NOT laugh while being trapped aboard a giant luxury liner starship with a bunch of sarcastic robots and a psychotic parrot?

The game is fairly non-linear. While moving from third class to second, then finally to first must be attained in a specific order, the rest of the game may be tackled in almost any order. In fact, you could just work on the class upgrades first, then play out the rest of the game after having access to the whole ship. Being as non-linear as it is, you will encounter some disk-swapping. The game exists on three CDs, so of course you will have to swap sometime. Fortunately, the game was designed well, and lots of areas overlap the CDs so that you only need to swap when you enter an area that only exists on one CD. The first CD covers only the beginning and the end of the game, so basically you only need to swap between numbers two and three during the main game. It's designed as well as it could be and still retain it's non-linear stature.

While there isn't much to the story, it is incredibly amusing and fun to play. You will uncover the plot that explains what happened to the ship, and why it was in the state it was in when you boarded. Voice acting for the insane parrot is provided by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. He does a fantastic job with it, and will keep you laughing every time you encounter it. The game isn't overly long, but there's enough gameplay to keep you busy for awhile. The end sequence features a narrative by Douglas Adams himself, and contains one of the funniest lines I've heard in a game in a long time.

Graphics 90%
Sounds 93%
Gameplay 88%
Interface 89%
Overall Impression 89%

Bottom Line: Excellent graphics, wonderful sound, and some of the best voice acting I've heard in a game in some time. The game has a great sense of humor, and features some of the most original characters seen in an adventure game. The interface is well thought-out, but some actions remain difficult to follow. Ten year old technology comes back to haunt us in the form of a text parser. If you're an Adams fan, or just want to play a good adventure game, this one's for you.


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