Written by  :  Zack Green (1186)
Written on  :  Oct 30, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Uh...wow. Just...wow...

The Good

A while ago, Revolution Software gave the source code for Beneath a Steel Sky to the makers of ScummVM (www.scummvm.org) so they could include support for it in their emulator. Not only that, they also allowed the ScummVM team to put the full game up for download, free. I figured there was no excuse not to try it. I'll never regret downloading those 67 Megs of pure magic.

The game begins with a comic book style intro cutscene, complete with still panels and "WHAM!" "BOOM!" and other sound effects. We learn that your character, Robert Foster, was in a helicopter crash when he was very young, and was stranded in the wilderness, or "The Gap." A tribe of people raised him there, and he built a robot named Joey. Then, police from the city he was born in come to get him. Just as they reach the city, the helicopter crashes. Foster survives again, and is on the run from the police, and tries to escape from the city. But he learns of the dark things that truly make the city run, and fights to...well, I don't want to give it away.

The point and click gameplay is simple, left or right click to move, left click to examine an object, right click to use it. Move the mouse to the top of the screen to select inventory items. The pixel-hunting problems of most point and click games are gone in BASS, because most important objects are very visible. The story is engaging and fast paced, and the puzzles are fun. Parts of the game were too hard for me, and I needed a walkthrough, but most adventure veterans should easily navigate the puzzles. I play these games for the story, really, not to experiment with inventory items. The voice acting (in the CD version) is very well done. The dialogue is also hilarious at times, giving the normally dark cyberpunk genre a lighthearted feel. Joey the robot is very humorous, and the courtroom scene in the later part of the game is extremely funny.

The Bad

The game has very, very few flaws. Obviously, the graphics and MIDI music are dated, but for a 1994 game, they are good. Still, they aren't as good as graphics these days, and the 320x200 resolution may require you to adjust your monitor. In the CD version, some voice acting is missing, and other times, the voice acting doesn't match the subtitles. I believe when you talk to Walter outside Burke's Bio Surgery, four or five lines are COMPLETELY different from the text displayed on screen. More minor voice acting things are present as well. For example, the text on the screen may say "jumper" (the British word for sweater) and the voice actors say "sweater." It's probably a localization thing, but it would've been nice if they changed the text too.

The Bottom Line

Before playing this game, I thought Grim Fandango was the greatest game ever made. Now, BASS is planted firmly next to that game in a tie. Even if you play with a walkthrough that spoils all the puzzles, the game is still one of the most entertaining things you can find. And since it's free now, there's no excuse to try it. It will be worth every single one of the zero dollars you pay for it.