The Starship Damrey Review
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On 07/13/2013 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola
Poor puzzles and clunky controls can't keep the Damrey down.
Once the game goes on sale, it’s a great 3-4 hour experience for fans of adventure games.
Is it possible to simultaneously love and hate a game? The Starship Damrey certainly makes a compelling case for such a sentiment. On one hand, it borrows many of the less desirable traits of classic PC adventure games, but on the other, it neatly melds an excellent sense of atmosphere and humor to keep you consistently interested. Despite the combination of a complete lack of cerebral puzzles and clunky controls, there’s something intrinsically alluring about this unabashedly short game.
At the start of the game, you find yourself trapped within a cryogenic sleep chamber that offers a limited set of abilities. Due to some malfunction on the ship, you’re unable to leave until oxygen is returned to the cabin. It’s unclear initially how exactly you move forward, but after fiddling around with the various items inside your chamber, you eventually stumble on a hacking prompt. Eventually working your way through the faux computer system is both cerebral and unique, which is completely unlike the rest of the puzzles in the game.
Once you gain access to the computer you’re able to seize control of one of the ship’s eight automated robots to both discover what happened and set the ship straight so that you may be released from your chamber. Most puzzles you’ll encounter as the robot are quite simple. Arguably the biggest puzzle in the game is simply navigating the ship. This is rarely a matter of puzzle solving, but rather combing the ship’s rooms for every minute detail to catch some item you may have missed. Other puzzles are so simple they can barely be considered such.
In most cases, you’ll pick up some item in the environment and immediately use it in another room. Because you’ve already crawled through every inch of the landscape, you know immediately where the item you acquired belongs. Unless of course, you didn’t thoroughly (extremely thoroughly) search every inch of the available ship – in that case you’ll have to backtrack and start looking at everything again. The game makes it clear early on that you need to explore absolutely everything in every single room, so this becomes a minor inconvenience.
Doing this is nowhere near as easy as you may have hoped. The robots have an extremely limited view and you can move only in the cardinal directions to make your way through the ship. If you’re not close enough to a given item, looking at it with the circle pad won’t bring up the typical prompts. So you often have to make your way through every grid space in the room and look in all of the cardinal directions to ensure that you’ve found what you might be looking for.
Yes, The Starship Damrey is an extremely clunky game with bad puzzles, but somehow it still manages to be intriguing. Scattered throughout the ship are clues that allow you to piece together what has happened up to the point of waking from cryo sleep. There’s even an element of the supernatural that comes into play as a little girl wanders the cabin and provides some occasional jump scares. If you’re really paying attention, you’ll have pieced together the most important parts of the story some time before the end, which only heightens the anticipation of completing the game.
Despite the puzzles being bad, they’re not really the carrot on the stick. There’s something satisfying about unlocking all of the rooms as you incrementally gain access and seeing the contents of the space. That sense of discovery plays a big role in keeping you on the hook. And thankfully, the game is short enough that this thin gameplay can hold up until the end.
As stated earlier, I both love and hate The Starship Damrey. It’s a pretty poor puzzle game that instead of testing your logical mettle requires heavy landscape crawling to continue onward, but it’s simultaneously an excellent atmospheric story-telling experience that is likely worth the price of admission for most fans of this genre – when it goes on sale.