gog.com and dotemu due to its freeware status. It's Revolution Software's second point and click adventure, after Lure of the Temptress, and it's actually pretty highly regarded. It also has a badass logo, but you've probably noticed that already.
Back in the early 90s adventure games like this were huge, and I'm not just talking popularity. On the Amiga, Monkey Island 2 and Fate of Atlantis took up 11 floppy disks each. This game came on 15 disks. Of course these days you can just stick the CD version into ScummVM and it runs, no disk swapping or installation required. So I did.
It's like they scanned the intro art from the comic book that comes with the game, as the smaller panels show up really fuzzy on screen.
And... they've finally ended the cutscenes and given me a mouse cursor.
My eye was immediately drawn to that red cloth or whatever tied around the broken railing, but it's not something Foster can pick up, and strangely it doesn't appear at all the Amiga version. He can grab the hard to see bar sticking out next to it through, which makes me think the red thing was added in to lure people over to the railing.
The interface in this is about as simple and effective as you can get in an adventure game. Left click looks at things, right click uses things, and there's a drop down inventory. They've nailed it.
I gotta say that I love the visuals in this game, they give the game a really miserable Blade Runner kind of atmosphere. The game's background graphics were actually created by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, and he does not disappoint.
There was a pile of junk here labelled 'Junk', but fortunately I took the time to click each section of it until a piece was revealed to be 'Robot shell'. Another problem solved, Joey's back online, and now I can move onto goal 2: get out of here.
I think I'm going to need some kind of distraction first.
Unfortunately grabbing his food didn't actually do me any good, and I'm no closer to finding a way out of here. I just have no idea what I'm meant to be doing in here. Every screen has buttons I can't press or screens I can't use, or machinery that serves no purpose but to sit there in the background "WHEEZING and BANGING like an asthmatic DINOSAUR in the MATING season!"
Fortunately acting dumb turned out to do the trick, giving me the information I needed... to tell my robot to solve my problem for me. Joey may a bit of a sulky asshole right now, but he's got his uses.
With nothing else left to try I turned to Joey for advice and he just opened the door for me. And then in walked sinister Officer Reich, the man who kidnapped Foster and murdered his people. The man he has sworn revenge upon. And the bastard's got a gun.
Anyway, same end result. I get to escape the factory, plus I've even grabbed his wallet.
Oh damn, I've just realised what this place is like. I was thinking Blade Runner, when I should have been thinking Judge Dredd. Foster basically came here from the Cursed Earth and this dystopian metropolis looks just Mega-City One. Apparently Dave Gibbons even drew a fair number of 2000 AD comics.
Anyway, this was less than useless and it wouldn't even let my use my actual keyboard's numeric keypad to type in the numbers! Though at least now I know where Reich lives and how much money's sitting in his account. I wonder if he left his pin number written down in his house somewhere.
Anyway this finally cheered up Joey a bit, which is cool. There's been a noticeable drop in the amounts of whining coming from his voice speaker.
I wasn't actually that impressed with the voice acting in this at first, though I think it's growing on me. Foster and Joey's banter seemed totally out of step with the serious tone of the game at first, but then the game dropped all attempts at playing it straight about three screens in.
I mean I know my next objective, it's to get down to the floor below, possibly in the elevator. But the elevator is shut down until they find the guy who escaped from the crashed chopper and as that's me I'm not sure that turning him in will further my goals.
I tried pressing the buttons on the right, but one's jammed, and the other one's locked with a safety mechanism. So either I'm looking for a button unjamming device, or this is just another useless panel.
I've no idea what I'm going to achieve by screwing with the power, but as an adventure game hero it's my duty to pick up everything that's not nailed down, fuck up everything I come across, then come back later when I've found a hammer to prise out the nails and nick everything I missed the first time around.
It's funny how this is supposed to be set in Australia, yet everyone has strong British or American sounding accents. You know, it's almost as if they were making the game in England and decided to hire local actors!
Some plastic explosive was enough to open up the control panel (and blast Foster to his death on the first attempt), and then I finally learned what these switches do when flicking them powered up the elevator outside. Honestly it never even occurred to me that these two unmarked switches were somehow related to that lift sitting a few buildings away.
Actually now that I think about it, that security guy right at the start of the game did mention they'd cut off power to an elevator. Would have been nice if anyone had mentioned it again by the point I had to deal with the problem. Maybe they could have even had some power lines running here from the lift I could've followed.
I've finally completed my ambition of reaching the next floor down, and look at this place, not a control panel or an asthmatic wheezing machine in sight! It almost makes me want to keep playing, but I think it's best to quit while I'm ahead.
Beneath a Steel Sky seems like a really average point and click adventure, though I admit I haven't played a lot of them lately to compare it with. I can at least say it's better than Lure of the Temptress and Curse of Enchantia, but not on the same level as something like Curse of Monkey Island. I mean the characters are entertaining enough, the interface is great, the graphics are fantastic for the time, and music's a big step up from Temptress, but I had no idea what I was doing for 90% of the time. In a bad way.
I'll use Curse of Monkey Island as an example of something that often gets it right. I'm told near the start I need to travel to an island, and to do that I'll need a map, a boat, and a crew. I find there's three crew members I need and each has to be recruited a different way. One wants me to find treasure so I have to go off and find something valuable etc. Each part of the puzzle leads down to the next part, so I have a clear idea of what I need to do, even if I haven't figured out how yet.
In this I'm told to go to get down to the ground. To do this I needed to activate an elevator. But I had no bloody clue why the elevator wasn't working, so instead of following the puzzle along to the power plant, and then trying to figure out how to open the door to reach the switches, I was left entirely aimless.
I felt like I wasn't always being given all the information I needed to solve a problem by myself, so I was left to work through all my options until I eventually found the trick to open up the next area. Which is a bit annoying because being stuck isn't much fun, and the satisfaction of figuring out a puzzle is half the point of these games. Of course it's possible I just wasn't paying enough attention, but the game wasn't exactly throwing out hints. Just being able to go up to someone and say "remind me again why the elevator isn't working" would have helped.
So what do you think about Beneath a Steel Sky? Is it overrated or am I just rubbish at adventure games? Feel free to leave a comment.