Game: The Starship Damrey
System: 3DS (eShop)
Release date: 2013
If you've heard anything about The Starship Damrey, it's probably that it doesn't last long. And it doesn't--my playthrough ended just short of the four-hour mark, while I've heard others have reached the game's credit roll just two-and-a-half hours after they started it.
Some people will tell you The Starship Damrey isn't worth buying because of its brevity. I'm not one of them. In fact, I think that in a world of 100-hour behemoths like Dragon Quest VII, this game's curtness should be looked at as a major selling point.
It helps, of course, that I purchased The Starship Damrey for a measly $2.99. (It's usually $7.99.) Still, considering this Level-5 release is at least as long as, and easily as compelling as, your average popcorn flick, I'd say it's well worth eight bucks, if that's what you have to pay to get it.
As for what makes The Starship Damrey so compelling, well, its setting--a derelict spaceship that calls to mind those depicted in the Alien and Aliens films--has a lot to do with it. Even better, the game begins with you waking up trapped inside a "Cold Sleep" capsule within the above-mentioned ship. And on top of that, it offers no explanation as to why you're there or what you're supposed to do to escape it.
From that point on, it's up to you to solve those mysteries by making use of the handful of "Assist Robots" situated throughout the craft and having them prowl its nearly silent interiors in your stead.
Thankfully, exploring Damrey's halls--from a first-person perspective, if the screens here don't make it clear--is both easy and intuitive. Your 3DS' directional pad controls movement (press up to go forward, right to turn in that direction, etc.), while its circle pad controls the camera. A press of the system's face buttons lets you interact with or investigate items in your path or field of view, like doors, bodies or other objects of interest.
It has to be noted, by the way, that you do all of the above while basically fumbling around in the dark. You also do it in almost complete silence. Some ambient noise, as opposed to an actual soundtrack, accompanies your journey through the Starship Damrey's claustrophobic innards, but only a smidgen.
Both aspects are sure to cause a certain percentage of players to wrinkle their noses in disgust--or at least annoyance. Although I'd understand such a reaction (to a point), I personally thought those design decisions helped solidify the sense of desolation and even dread that permeated my Starship Damrey playthrough.
In the end, I'd highly recommend this title, made by text-based-adventure pioneers Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko, to anyone who doesn't consider first-person games set it dark, quiet and semi-claustrophobic environments to be deal-breaking turnoffs.
Just do your best to overcome any stumbling blocks without turning to a guide or an FAQ for assistance. After all, if you're only going to spend a couple of hours with a game, you may as well beat it on your own, right?
See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews