Written by  :  Ola Sverre Bauge (241)
Written on  :  Apr 28, 2000
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Mostly Hot Air

The Good

This game was hyped to no end prior to its release. For one, it had Douglas Adams' name on it; since he has actually pulled off a game or two way back when, expectations were that it would be an actual game, and not just the sort of linear abominations you get when movie directors with bloated egos decide to make Interactive Movies.

Initial screenshots were extremely pretty, and it promised something genuinely new: A conversation system to push the state of the art of NPCs, which, let's face it, has been standing still for quite some time. This conversation system would revolve around a natural language parser which would - gasp - actually work, and provide you with hours of stimulating interactive conversation! (How exactly the publishers managed to pull this off without mentioning that it would involve touching a keyboard is beyond me.)

It's pretty, I'll give it that. The interior of the ship is designed in a 20's-inspired architecture, with shiny glass, gold, speckled stone and extinct tropical wood aplenty. This fits beautifully with that particular kind of shine you usually see in pre-rendered 3D.

The Bad

Everything else.

The FMV flythroughs get extremely annoying after about the second time, so getting around becomes a right pain in the expansion ports. This isn't improved by the fact that all means of transportations have long, pointless animations of getting there, which there's no way to skip.

The bots were hyped up to true natural conversationalist status, when in reality they're just slightly rewired Elizas whom you have to prod in the right spot just to get them to tell you what their function is - in particular, the maitre'd and the puzzle associated with him is laughably pathetic. The poor state of the natural language parser is excused by the starship and its bots going haywire, although the achieved effect isn't that of malfunction, but annoyance. Ironically, this makes the only believable character the only organic one: The parrot, whose obnoxiousness matches the parser.

Then there are the puzzles. Apparently, whoever designed them was smoking rolled-up marketing hype about the bots' natural language capabilities, crippling the game completely as you plod away trying to find out exactly what phrasing you have to use to get a bot to perform a particular action.

The story? Don't make me laugh. There are a few shards of it at the beginning and you might be able to wring some more of it out of the bots if you're lucky, and at the end you get some dodgy footage of Douglas Adams pretending to be the ship's constructor, but really, it's all an excuse to dump you in an empty shell of a setting with arbitrary puzzles. Honestly, didn't we leave this kind of thing behind, like, fifteen years ago?

And poof, that's just about everything that makes it a game in ruins. What's left is an arguably pretty-looking shell to wander about, but that fades quickly after, oh, the first couple of hours.

The Bottom Line

Avoid, unless you're looking for a schoolbook example of puzzles, FMV and NPCs done in all the wrong ways.