I saw The Starship Damrey sitting all by itself a while ago in the Nintendo eShop. The title by itself sounded interesting, but it was the description of the game that caught my attention. I was told that The Starship Damrey was essentially a point-and-click game, but you are given no introduction. “With no tutorials, explanations, or hints provided, the game was created with the intent that self-discovery and experimentation be an integral part of the experience.” How to do things is all learned by "doing" in this game. As the disclaimer for the game says:
There are no explanations as to what button does what, the game is all trial and error. I realize that can be a turn off to some gamers, but to me it was a selling point. That's what I like, that the developers, Level 5 (Professor Layton series, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch), have faith that the player will know what to do and if they don't that they will not be afraid to experiment. Now, with all that in mind, let's get down to our review.
The Starship Damrey is basically an old fashioned point-and-click game, like Shadowgate or Deja-vu, with the main difference is that you play in a three dimensional environment. The majority of the game is spent controlling a robot via remote with audio/video capabilities. You are able to "point-and-click" various objects around the ship although where you're going and what your mission is, is pretty much unknown for most of the game. One major departure from other point-and-click games is that the robot you control is only able to hold one item at a time. This might seem like a hinderance, but the issue only comes up once or twice in the game where you wish you could just learn to hold three things with your mechanized arm/hand.
There was one point in the game where I couldn't figure out how to "click" something that I knew I needed to click and had to look it up on gamefaqs, but I don't see it any differently than if I had asked a friend, "Hey, how do I do this one thing that I can't seem to do?"
I'm going to leave this section almost blank as finding out the story is part of the game and the experience. I will say that the story is pretty well done for a short-ish three hour game. I will say though that the story was pretty engaging and everything that I initially had questions about while playing the game were answered by the end. Like, why the hell are you stuck in a box for the whole game?
There were only two instances during the whole game that I was forgetting about the story because I couldn't figure out what to do. It did take me out of the game as I started thinking about the mechanics of the game and tried to think like a game designer, such as "Now what would be the purpose of having a robot carry around a cookie tin filled with oil? If I were a game designer, where would I want the player to put this?" I'm not going to cite the game for that as it's supposed to be difficult and there were times when I went around to every room I could access and looking at every screen/view I could, trying to figure out what to do with that damned oil. Eventually I did figure it out (on my own) and felt very accomplished once I located, um, what it was that I was supposed to locate.
I thought the graphics in the game looked great. I was very impressed, considering it was an $8 download game, albeit from a reputed developer like Level 5.
I don't know really what else to add about how the graphics were/looked. I was impressed; I thought they looked good; I felt the art fit the world and didn't seem out of place. It was a good looking game.
The 3D effects in the game never felt overdone, blurry or even out of place. There wasn't anything that was flying out of the screen at you and I felt having the 3D slider at 50-75% helped to add depth (pun not intended) to the visuals. The game could be played just fine without the 3D effect turned on.
Most of the effect was in the visual screen of the robot in the foreground with the environment pushed out in the background.
There is a very distinct lack of music in The Starship Damrey, which works very well. With the exception of one or two musical cues, all the sound in the game is ambient background noise and practical sounds. Everything that makes noise in the game sounds how I imagine a robot aboard a space vessel would sound. It was a pretty minimalist score.
I really enjoyed The Starship Damrey. It was a fun game that updated a style of gameplay that isn't made too much anymore. Because games of the early '80s had many limitations, point-and-click were pretty common, so to find that type of game today and not only looks great and plays great, but also expects a lot from the player and doesn't treat them like a novice, that's something that I really like both about the game and Level 5.