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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beneath a steel sky. A classic sci-fi adventure

Getting back to my trusty old Macbook Pro after months of absence I had this impulse to reinstall everything from scratch. I do not know why but after months away I had a feeling of starting clean. I never had formatted it, not that it needed it, so I figured I will just go on with it. There was no trouble really since I had backed everything up before I left. After installing any new system I have the habit of installing scummvm. The magnificent little application that allows you to play old scumm engine adventure games. Since its first release many years ago scummvm has expanded from the Lucas Arts only games to support a great number of classic adventures such as the King Quest series, Broken sword and Legend of Kyrandia to name a few. It is available for all platforms imaginable from PCs and Macs to mobile phones and game consoles. After installing it I said, why not try a game that i haven't played before. I chose Beneath a Steel which is available for free from the scummvm download section. I loaded it and instantly I got hooked.

Beneath a Steal Sky is a classic point and click adventure that takes place in a dystopian future. The setting of the game is the Union City which is run by the oppressive Linc Computer through the Security a gestapo like police force. Our hero is Robert Foster who grew up in the great wasteland outside the city after being rescued by a tribe from a mysterious crash when he was a young boy. Foster has to unravel the mysteries of his childhood, find out about his parents and his true identity and save the human race (naturally...). The game's script is not very original but is very well written. The pacing of finding bits and pieces of the truth is very good. The great Dave Gibbons is one of the games writers and artists.

Union city sure is ugly dull and depressing

Being a point and click adventure you solve puzzles by getting items and using them in various situations. You can combine items for use and interact with the environment. Throughout the game there are several terminals that you can hack your way into, to retrieve data, open locked doors and cause a lot of trouble to Security. Foster is accompanied by his trusty robot Joey who assumes various robotic bodies during the course of the game. Joey helps you out in various situations and you can ask him to perform certain actions. There are some sections of the game that take place inside the cyberspace. I really liked these parts as they had a distinct feeling and unique puzzles. The puzzles in the game are not very hard but some can get very frustrating especially in the the first parts of the game since it is not exactly clear what you have to do. Later on the goals are much better blend in the story and the pacing is better, knowing what you have to do.

The game has many interesting characters. My favorite though, has to be Joey, especially in his early form. Cunning remarks and ironic humor will get on Foster's nerves. The inhabitants of the city are colorful to say the least. Memorable mentions are the fat and cocky factory manager Lamb and the rich and ugly Mrs Piermont. The atmosphere of the game changes from time to time, from a depressing dystopian future to a comical Brazil like experience depending on the situation.

From the games comic book like cutscenes

The graphics have aged quite well and the colors used will suck you into Union city. I can't say the same for the musical score. Most of them are annoying repetitive old midi music that manages to ruin the atmosphere created by the story and graphics. I strongly suggest adjusting the volume or turning it off all together. The voice acting of the CD version is very well done and convincing with some minor annoying exceptions.

All in all I strongly recommend giving this old gem a try. It is free after all and you have nothing to loose. You will spend a week's worth of evenings to beat the game and you will have great fun doing it. Download the game files from here.


Eraserheadx said...

One of my very favourite adventure games!

ebenet said...

Classic. Just classic. Cliché, but they just don't mak'em like they used to.