The parrot’s not dead, it’s only resting….
It was a lovely night. After my invigorating hour in the sauna, I unwound with a shiatsu massage while Jeeves, my butler (nay, manservant), prepared his famously delectable baklava. The life of a game reviewer is not an easy one, particularly with cuticles in such poor condition as mine. After Gigi (my manicurist) filed away the calcium vagrants, I trekked through the hallways of my mansion (nay, chateau) to once again conjure the magic that is a Dr. Moo game review. With a nibble of baklava and a sip of liqueur, I closed the door to my study.
No sooner had I begun writing when, with a puff a smoke rivaling the men’s room at Philip Morris Inc., the roof decided to get better acquainted with the floor. My previously intact ceiling came crashing down in a great many pieces. I was startled and shocked, but this was fleeting, as I was soon engulfed with a good dose of outright terror. I peered upward and discovered that my ceiling had been replaced by what appeared to be the hull of a ship. A very large ship. A titanic ship, one might say.
My suspicions were soon confirmed when the door of the vessel opened and out came Fentible the Doorbot. Unwilling to let this sudden change of events rattle my sanguine nature, we exchanged pleasantries and he asked me to come aboard. I quickly weighed my options. I could stay in the sanctity of my study, ignore the hole in my roof, and plod through another mundane review. Or I could seize this opportunity to become a part of what must surely be the greatest mystery the world has ever known. So I flipped a coin, packed my bags, and stepped onboard the Starship Titanic.
The first thing I noticed was that things were apparently not functioning correctly (this was evidenced in part by it violently colliding with my private chambers). Upon closer inspection, I have deduced that something is indeed very wrong with the ship. The only inhabitants of this fantastic liner are a bunch of loony robots and one incredibly irritating parrot. It is my duty to discover what has gone wrong with the ship, fix it, and ultimately save the universe and return home in style to my comfy estate.
The decor of the ship is quite beautiful. Nothing chintzy – we’re talking world (nay, universe) class accommodations. My keen reviewer’s eye has noticed crisp hi-res graphics, the kind of thing you’d expect from a good adventure these days. The general atmosphere is both foreign and familiar, a slightly skewed version of a luxury cruise ship.
Whilst peering about the fine interior, however, I came to the sudden realization that I had no way of communicating with my fellow passengers. It was at that moment that I was introduced to Spookitalk.
Spookitalk is the fancy name for what has got to be the coolest language system in any game to date. Basically, the game understands literally thousands of words and phrases. In order to talk to the robots, I simply type exactly what I want to ask (I carry a keyboard around with me for such purposes). This is an impressive and revolutionary use of text in adventure gaming. You are no longer forced into writing direction-oriented sentences such as “kill troll with axe.” You are encouraged to explore your vocabulary. More specifically, I asked Fentible, “So what the hell do I do now?”
And he responded. Out loud. To me. When the partially incoherent Nobby (the Liftbot) told me some of his war stories, I was able to press him on certain details. Unlike earlier games, the language parser is not limited to a fixed “right or wrong” puzzle format. And unlike typical adventure games ala Riven, you actually get to interact with the characters. There are no right answers or wrong answers – you really have to have a chatty nature to get very far.
Though far is not going to be easy. I have spent many an hour on this cursed ship, wandering aimlessly in hopes of having some sort of major breakthrough. Yep – this is one hard game. The puzzles take patience, though the ‘bots will occasionally help you out. Since the game understands so many words, it’s tough figuring out exactly what issues to discuss with them. Not for the amateur or the weak of heart.
And why? Well, for one thing, the Starship Titanic was birthed by Douglas Adams. Those familiar with his work will remember The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I also remember an earlier game of his called Bureacracy, which was titanically difficult, and which I firmly believe was the initial caveat for my hair loss and stress lines.
Difficulty nonwithstanding, I have truly enjoyed my time spent aboard the ship. The music is great – they must have speakers hidden behind the potted plants in every room. The sound is pleasant as well, particularly the voice-acting. The parrot sounds remarkably like Monty Pythoner Terry Jones, the bomb may or may not be yet another Python twit, and I swear that ringmaster Douglas Adams is speaking to me through the Succubus (you’ll see…). I often find myself laughing out loud while pulling out the remains of my hair.
So I write this review from the confines of the Starship. I have no idea where we are at the moment, but I feel close to solving the riddle of the ship and figuring out how to get back home. Please do yourself (and me) a favor and pick up a copy of the game. I need all the help I can get. Besides, my nails could really use some work, and I never got to finish my baklava…