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Nomen Est Omen: Starship Titanic

Entry 300 posted in: 2. DNA, 3. Gamebits

Having read the Douglas Adams novel  that was actually written by Terry Jones, from Monty Python fame, I found that it was about time to titillate my visual sensor systems and to play the game that listens to the same title: Starship Titanic.

I remember the game well, around the year 2000 it was lying in heaps in the sales bin of a local CD shop, that also happened to sell some software and videos of girls in various stadia of nakedness, and perhaps due to the fact that nobody knew what this shop was actually selling it went bankrupt after a while. Therefore, I never had the chance to buy the Starship Titanic box, which apparently contained some 3D-glasses that do not come handy at all in playing the game.

Lucky for me I could take a space-cab to the nearest parallel universe were time stood still at 1998 and where I could get hold of one of those goodies. I realize this may not be all together legal at this mirror side of ZZ 9 plural Z alpha but who cares. The day some person or thing will bring the box out again, I will buy it, paying with real zilch, promised.

So after installing the game and browsing the net to find that particular Cinepak codec to make the game run under Window XP Service Pack 2, I placed myself in front of my flatscreen and pressed the Starship Titanic icon. The game is strange, so strange it took me two ctrl-alt-del sessions to understand that this was how the game was supposed to start. I was quite baffled by the touchdown of the ship and the movie that followed it. So I prepared for a strange, interesting and hilarious adventure...

Meatloaf once vociferously expressed that 'two out of three ain't bad', but in this case I can't totally agree. Although the game promises to have a graphical interface it really is just an upgraded text adventure with some simple click and point interaction. The screen doesn't give you the first person free movement environment as promised (although the Wolfenstein 3D engine was invented seven years before that, in 1991) but consists of a multitude of slides with hotpoint triggers and a visual effect to imitate some action from one view to another. These visual effects have been programmed into 446 AVI files, so there is really a lot to watch, but it starts getting tedious after a while anyway as 'moving around' inside a room isn't always as simple and easy as it looks. In order to solve a puzzle, some objects lying on the floor have to be taken but due to the fact that the right slide has to be triggered before this can be done this becomes a rather frustrating experience. The same goes for finding the right elevator, the right corridor, the right room... (That click and point games don't need to be boring was already proven by Lucasarts in 1993 with Days of the Tentacle: Tentacle Day.)

Douglas Adams was a storyteller and the Starship Titanic novel proves there was an - albeit rather flimsy - story to tell. That story gets completely lost in the game. It starts promising enough with the introduction by the doorbot after the ship has demolished your house (again an AVI movie), but after that you are on your own... Early in the game you find a dead body and it is left to your imagination to find out who this is, who has killed him and why, why he is carrying these goodies, etc... An attempt is made when you find the logins and passwords of the mailboxes of the dead guy, but reading through a dozen of 'mails' is a typical text adventure solution and not apt for a graphical game. (The Starfleet Academy adventure from 1995 featured 'live' video-messages from Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Hikaru Sulu and Chekov to help you through your missions.)

Nearly at the end of the game you have to resuscitate the ship's main computer, called Titania, and this robotic creature gabbers nearly for five minutes without the possibility to shut her up. While she is explaining what has happened to the ship and who may be responsible for all this and why she thinks you should take the helm and lead us back to Earth in order to find that Leovinus fellow back who has probably jumped off the ship while it crash-landed the only thing you can think of is that it was a big mistake to wake her up to begin with.

Douglas Adams himself can be seen two times in the game, once as the enthusiast author ordering us to hurry up with the game (a237.avi), the second time as Leovinus (a113.avi) in something that can be defined as being the most boring epilogue for a game ever. It's the description of the game in a nutshell, I can only deduct that somewhere during the development of the software the creators must have lost the interest (or the money).

It's a pity, because the conversation engine that can handle more than 5000 situations and contains, apparently, 10000+ sentences is a real treat. Ask about The Beatles, about Monty Python, about Douglas Adams, 42, Life, the Universe and Everything, the maximum air velocity of an unladen swallow and you'll get some very daft answers.

Forget the game - just keep talking to the bots, that is were the fun is...

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: This Satanic Trip