Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Revolution Software
Platform: DOS; Windows; Amiga; Macintosh; iPhone
Review: Considered by many to be the best computer game of 1994, Revolution Software’s second game is a highly atmospheric, campy steampunk adventure that would appeal to fans of just about any genre. You take control over Robert Foster in a future Australia, where the cities reach to the heavens and corruption is the norm. Robert has lived his entire life in the Outback among the poor tribes that eschew the city life. One day, big guns from the big city come to take Robert away, for reasons unclear. However, before they can land, their copter crashes and Robert escapes into the buildings and walkways that dominate the steel sky. With his pet robot Joey (that he programmed himself), Robert must figure out who’s behind his kidnapping and get the hell outta Dodge.
Gameplay consists of standard point’n’click solutions with some added variety. Some NPCs move about on their own volition (though, they too have patterns), and you must use Joey in a few cases to solve certain puzzles. Joey’s circuit board can be placed in several different machines throughout the game, his skill level and voice changing based on the confines of his shell. Unfortunately, only one shell is available at any given time, but it’s fun to relearn Joey every time you need to transport him.
The game is none too difficult, and I finished it in a mere seven hours (but called in “sick” to work to do it!). However, it is highly enjoyable for all the reasons that adventure games are played. The characters are likeable and often funny. With the Hitchhiker references throughout the game, it is likely Joey is modeled after Marvin. While Joey is not quite as depressed as that robot, he is very cynical and condescending, responsible for most of the laughs throughout. He’s even prone to cursing, a daring move for a game released in 1994. The plot develops at a steady and realistic pace, eliciting feelings of tension and excitement along the way. And the ending is solid, if a little predictable. With above average sound, graphics, and voice acting, there is very little not to like about this game.
The best part about Beneath A Steel Sky is that it’s freeware! In 2003, Revolution allowed the designers of ScummVM to have the source code and release the game (including the CD-ROM version) free to the public. If you’d rather play the remastered version (with more cut-scenes!) on your iPhone, it’s only $2.99. Highly recommended to everyone.
Contemporary Rating: High.
Cruelty Rating: Polite. Several ways to die, so keep that save button handy.