The Goodship Damrey
Recently all of the Guild series titles were on sale on the Nintendo eShop for 3DS. Before we go on it seems like Nintendo have been watching the rest of the gaming field and taking bits and pieces to significantly up their own online shop to maximise success. In the last couple of months there have been a number of good titles on sale. A worrying amount. A potentially bankrupting amount. We snapped up Resident Evil Revelations with 50% off. But with titles like the Guild series, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D and 3D classics like Super Mario Brothers 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog being discounted to mere pounds, to less than the price of a standard measure of whatever beverage you prefer to drink, then what the heck. Why not? Weirdest of all is that retailers are matching the eShop prices or perhaps the eShop is matching retail prices. Either way we're a million miles away from when your average decent game cost upwards of £50 and you had to go to a fucking brick and mortar shop on the off chance they'd stock it. GAME. rant. coming. on. Must. Must. Resist.
Okay, we're better now. Sorry about that.
|Someone's been watching Aliens.|
Back to the Guild series sale. We'd seen a few reviews of various titles but it wasn't until they were on sale for less than a fiver when we decided to risk disappointment and spend a tenner's worth on two of them. The two that piqued our interest by virtue of being a bit different were The Starship Damrey and Crimson Shroud. Of the two we've enjoyed The Starship Damrey the most by far. If we were to lower ourselves to the common parlance of the forums we'd even go so far to describe it as a gem.
|Shades of 'This game plays you as much as you play it' and the shades of 'yeah riiiiiight' that go with it.|
It's been marketed in a very odd way. The above screenie pushes a gimmick that really doesn't fit with this game, nor is it apparent after the relatively straight forward controls are worked out. Images of the tired tired out-of-place scary little girl trope were also part of the marketing but again scary little girls aren't really the focus or the strength of the game.
Unfortunately, we can't go into too much detail about the game without spoiling it. It's short, we'd seen all there was to see in under 3 hours and this seems to be a common complaint. However, this is a video game with all the classic video game bullshit normally wedged in to lengthen the playtime completely stripped out. There's no lengthy collectible side quest, no ridiculous grinding and no Devil May Cry 4, you've-played-through-it-now-you-have-to-play-back-through-it-all-as-another-character nonsense either. Some sources seem to resent that it's not video gamey enough or that it can't easily be put in one genre or another (again reviewers complaining that it isn't the first person horror game it shouldn't have been billed as being). Other reviews that we've seen seem to resent that the robot main character controls like a robot. Perhaps all first person characters should be 30 something white men with CoD controls then yeah? It's tough to call but it seems that some game journos and some gamers are developing a habit worse than the film critics who don't do foreign films because of the sub-titles. It's a bit different because the mechanics of the game are normally demoted to the functional, how you play the game. When the controls are used to encourage the role-playing, in this title replicating the difficulty of remote controlling an outdated robot, lesser reviewers take issues with the controls.
Some, won't even try The Starship Damrey due to the brevity and at the normal price point of around £7 we'd say that's fair. However for a fiver it's a tight experience that makes us long for more titles like this. In fact more spaceship based titles in general please. The Starship Damrey brought back memories of Sentient, Beneath a Steel Sky, Metroid and the isolation of the early Dead Space titles. It really hits home how with the infinite possibility space that games could occupy the dozen or so well worn settings, stories and pathways really are just that.
It's linear too, there's a few moments of head scratching but after you figure out that your access around the ship is essentially gear gating, the solutions to problems with the resources available become obvious without becoming frustration. What this game lacks in length and complexity it more than makes up for with atmosphere, narrative and there is one perfect moment of humour (also our favourite cutscene in any video game of this century so far). The devil is in the details and there's a few lovely touches here that put bigger titles like Beyond Two Souls abysmal effort with it's split ending to shame. There's a smattering of post-credit stuff to do and it doesn't take long but is worth it for what amounts to an extra screen in the ending sequence and two extra files on the menu screen.
The key to moving on was so obscure and so unfairly hidden that I felt more frustration when finding it than relief. Quote from this IGN blog. Some less intelligent players may struggle without glowing waypoints and hand holding.
We also got incredibly protective of the main character, essentially a robot, the wonderfully generic AR-7 even going so far as to hide the robot from potential harm in the closing moments of the game which the entirety of the journey had been building up to. Sadly there isn't any fanart yet (or will there ever be probably) but we formed more of an attachment to AR-7 than we have many a game hero of late (tellingly, we don't even remember the name of most protagonists despite spending hours and hours with them).
If you like video games and want something a bit different then we'd recommend you spend less than a fiver and half an afternoon with The Starship Damrey. We'd also like to applaud Nintendo's efforts at highlighting the games on the eShop significantly better than they handled the DSiWare and WiiWare shops in the past. The Guild series all had mini interviews with the creators which also serve as their trailers on the eShop. It's still relatively early days for the eShop so we're eager to see if they can keep up the pace, highlighting some of the more obscure titles and unlike the magpie-like store fronts of other consoles, not focusing on what's new and shiny when the number of titles starts to hit the thousands.
Lastly, despite The Starship Damrey being out for over six months when we downloaded it there was a real dearth of reviews out there from the larger and slightly more credible sources out there. Newer games have it even worse, we couldn't find a single review for a couple of the titles on sale and it seems that few, ahem, 'game journos' have decided to review re-releases and 3D updates. Is there really more mileage in every source reviewing the same six games as everyone else every week? Doesn't make sense to us.