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Beneath a Steel Sky


Release date: 1994
Developer: Revolution
Publisher: Virgin


Game language: German


Boxshots

USK: 12 years and up

 

A review by   André   3rd April 2005
(translated by slydos)

 

I always wanted to play the old comic adventure "Beneath a Steel Sky", since it was made by Revolution, the developers of Broken Sword, whose first two parts still rank among my absolute favourite adventures. Besides that the screenshots still today look so impressing that they entice to play. But unfortunately I couldn't get the game run errorfree under Windows until now. I didn't believe anymore to be able to ever play BASS to the end, when I discovered the games compilation "Amiga Classix 3" in a shop. Behind this name nothing else is hiding than the emulation software UAE (which allows to play old Amiga games on a Windows/Mac computer) as well as one hundred compatible original games.

 

Installation

Unfortunately I'm not used to DOS, but the installation of Amiga Classix and the Amiga version of the game under Windows is really easy. You simply install the Classix program. Afterwards the emulator software and all one hundred games are on your computer. Now the emulator eagerly waits for you to start it. If this has happened, you only have to select your favourite game from a list as for example "Beneath a Steel Sky" and play it to the early morning to the top of your bent. The installation was so easy that even I succeded in it.

I should mention that one can alternatively download both the emulation software UAE and BASS free and legally from the internet.

Well, the installation has been accomplished. Now it would be ridiculous, if we couldn't accomplish a snappy review for this gem.


Story

Attached to the original game box is a comic book, narating a kind of introduction to the story. Unfortunately the comic was saved on the newer game versions, which are usually part of compilations (Amiga Classix 3 or also Revolution Classic Adventures). Thus a little bit of prehistory escapes the gamers, who have to find out about it more or less by themselves in the course of the game. Let us start with the intro: The game takes place sometime in the future in a totalitarian surveillance state. Our hero Robert Forster is a prisoner in a helicopter, making a rough emergency landing on a gigantic building. Our hero survives the crash unwounded and can escape. However the exit downward is blocked, since the building is in the hand of Robert's opponent, of which we at first only know that it is a computer system named Linc. Everywhere are terminals of Linc and the whole building is monitored by cameras and personal. Besides the power supply for the elevators was cut.

Therefore our hero must fight respectively puzzle his way towards liberty floor by floor and in doing that gets to know more and more about his own story and why the attack aimed at him. I like the way of getting familiar with the plot gradually and learning about the connections. I remember a similar kind of humor from Broken Sword, that I'm enjoying very much, and which runs through the whole game. Possibly it's even cruder than in Broken Sword. In total things are not as filigree, as there is no lack in dead victims.

 

Graphics

Even with apparently fast moving products such as PC games quality prevails, as the graphics are today - over ten years after the original release - at least for adventure lovers still an eye candy. After all the graphics didn't need to hide behind the best genre members of that time (e.g. Sierra and Lucas Arts), even if all companies had found their very own style. The graphic look and quality of BASS can more likely be compared with Gabriel Knight 1, Innocent Until Caught or The Dig.

At the beginning of the game, which takes place in a more hostile environment, cold blue, grey and dark brown tinges dominate the huge building of steel and concrete. Only seldom a few idyllic spots are opened for the gamers. Particularly if the locations become a little more natural, you can anticipate that the same company was at work, which should later create Broken Sword. BASS also uses 3rd-person-perspective.

 

Puzzles

The puzzles are interesting, varied and at least up to the second third not easy, but solvable. Their degree of difficulty always incentivize the players to solve the puzzles of their own as far as possible. However the further we approach the end of the game, the puzzles become more difficult. Moreover we can die towards the end more often and death comes unexpected like in real life. I have to say that the frequent deaths at the end together with the very difficult puzzles partly frustrated me. But at a pinch there are walkthroughs. At least it won't be wrong to save often for this reason.

Time and again it's a highlight, when Forster and his robot put on a battle of words. But the robot doesn't only serve as communication device, no, it serves quite other purposes. It's capable of a few abilities e.g. welding or flying, which our hero is lacking. Other puzzles can only be mastered as team, partly even simultaneously.

 

Sound

There are no voice overs, in the adventure history we are quasi still in the pre-lingual era. The rest is fast treated too: There is a little melody at the beginning and at the end of the game and occasionally it sounds 'pling' here or also 'plong' there for instance when a hammer strokes. But that happens rather seldom. Usually you won't hear more than the noise of your fan.

 

Handling

Contrary to many other games from this era the controls are extremely comfortable. Because instead of selecting exhaustingly from umpteen individual action icons as in other games of that time like "speak", "pull", "press", "take", "give" etc., the actions are automatically executed. If we thus draw an object from the inventory to a character, then he/she automatically responds whether her/she's for example interested or whether he/she knows something to report on the item etc.. This innovation was at that time contrary to control by icons a very practical and comfortable because time-saving affair.

The inventory opens likewise practically, if one clicks on top of the screen. You've only nine save slots (of course overwritable). But the quite low number was at that time probably not unusual.

 

Result

Beneath a Steel Sky already brings along all positive characteristics and stylistic elements, which then should be continued in the first two parts of Broken Sword and which have made the series legendary: An exciting, thought out story is told and the interesting puzzles are well integrated into the game. It's a downright pleasure, to follow the subliminal, slightly uncouth humour and quirky word joke, which are abundant, if e.g. our protagonist and his robot friend are bantering.

The unusual graphics for that time - are still very beautiful and contribute a lot to the unique atmosphere.

Irritating only the frequent involuntary game-overs by death, as I rather like to approach puzzles without fear. But that doesn't prevent us from facing an absolute adventure classic, that should be tried by every adventure fan, who is open-minded about older graphics.



Rating: 87 %

 

Adventure-Archiv rating system:

  • 80% - 100%  excellent game, very recommendable
  • 70% - 79%    good game, recommendable
  • 60% - 69%    satisfactory, restricted recommendable
  • 50% - 59%    sufficient (not very recommendable)
  • 40% - 49%    rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
  • 0%  -  39%    worst (don't put your fingers on it)

 

System requirements:

  • 386er with DOS 3.3
  • 2 MB RAM, 550 KB
  • VGA
  • Sound card Adlib or Sound Blaster

Played with:

  • Win XP
  • AMD Athlon XP 1800
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Graphic card Radeon 9200 series
  • DVD-drive
  • Hard disk 60 GB

 

 

Copyright © André for Adventure-Archiv, 3rd April 2005

 

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