Review: Starship Titanic
- Genre: Adventure/Humor
- Format: 3 CDs
- Developer: The Digital Village
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Interactive
- Minimum Requirements: 120 MHz PowerPC, System
7.5, 32MB RAM, 160MB hard disk space, 640x480 color
monitor supporting thousands of colors, 4x CD-ROM
- Network Feature: No
- 3Dfx Support: No
- Retail Price: $39.99
- Availability: Out now
I made Douglas Adams laugh. It's true, him and Terry
Jones both. Aside from the time when Brian May called me
"clever," it may be the greatest achievement of my life.
It happened while I was living in New York City, and it
happened at the Gap. This was before the Gap started selling
khakis, and instead focused on...books? Okay, I'm not quite
sure I understand that dynamic, but here's what I think was
going on. This particular Gap on 5th Avenue (if I remember
correctly, it may have been 6th) was once the Charles
Scribner's Sons bookstore, or something like that. I guess
that, because of its legacy, they still brought in authors
from time to time. Or who knows, maybe Douglas and Terry
were simply in the market for some nice fitting jeans.
Anyway, at that time, Douglas and Terry were there
pushing Terry's novel "adaptation," Starship
Titanic. The game wasn't due for release for another
five months, and, of course, wouldn't actually be released
for another year and a half...for the Mac, anyway. But on
that day, I made two of the funniest men in history laugh.
Terry Jones played straight man to me, and what's better
Titanic. That's what's better than that.
I almost feel guilty writing this review. Douglas Adams,
after all, is a dedicated Apple user, and it was the
original "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that convinced
me not only that writing can be fun, but that maybe I should
give it a try myself. I guess you all have Douglas to blame
for that, but first thank him for giving us Starship
The Starship Titanic is just that, a titanic starship.
It's also "the ship that cannot possibly go wrong." But of
course it does, suffering SMEF (spontaneous massive
existence failure) immediately after leaving the
construction dock. The net result of this is that it
eventually crashes into "your lovely home." The DoorBot then
appears, subtly insults what was your house, then coerces
you into climbing aboard to help get the Startship Titanic
working again. That's pretty much all you get up front, but
you'll learn more as the game progresses...and I can't
remember learning ever being this fun.
There are no humans aboard the Starship Titanic, but it's
not devoid of life. Still on board trying to perform their
assigned functions are a wealth of robots and one extremely
obnoxious parrot. Your interaction with these characters not
only provides you with the clues you need to finish the
game, but also its most enjoyable moments. This game is
funny...there's just no arguing that point. And what's
better is that you get to provide most of the comedy. The
more you talk to the bots, the more jokes you uncover. And
as long as you're not too obscure, they will have an answer
for you. My favorite was G. Nobbington-Froat, or Nobbie the
LiftBot. He's sort of an old-school Royal Navy admiral type,
and it was always a pleasure to ride in his elevator.
When you first board the ship, you're given a room in
Super Galactic Traveller Class (read, third). The first
thing you'll want to do is upgrade to second and ultimately
first class, as it's not until then that you'll have access
to many of the areas required to finish the game. The more
areas you explore and the more bots to whom you speak, the
more you learn of the ship's construction and what went
wrong with "the ship that cannot possibly go wrong." The
story is an amazingly sharp satire on greed and corporate
beaurocracy, but I've grown to expect nothing less from
Douglas. Beneath the tide of all his jokes, there's always a
strong undertoe of satire that sweeps you furiously to his
point...as absurd as that point most often is.
But the wonders of Starship Titanic go well beyond the
language parsing engine and the comedy it provides. The
graphics, which were designed by the Oscar winning team of
Isabel Molina and Oscar Chichoni, are simply the most
stunning I have ever seen in a video game. This game is
simply attractive to look at, almost as if you're in a
virtual museum. And unlike other such games that get their
depth by making you take four or five steps to walk down a
hallway, Starship Titanic gets its dept from...well, it's
depth. The drawback to this is that it's easy to get
discombobulated aboard the ship. The interface is tricky,
but hey! If you get confused, it's just another excuse to
summon and chat with the DoorBot. The conversation is so
good that you may want to put the kettle on before booting
up Starship Titanic.
The sound and music, both ambiant and otherwise, are also
very well done. I got a kick out of the changes in music
quality between SGT class and first class, and the music
room puzzle was one of the most enjoyable (Douglas wrote the
music for that section himself).
A big bonus for Mac users is that our version ships with
Neil Richards' official strategy guide. Aside from offering
some much needed hints (anyone who has played the other
Douglas Adams computer game, the Infocom classic The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, will understand what I
mean), it's nearly as entertaining as the game itself. I
mean, I had no idea that Atlanic puffins were so literate.
The book also details much of the work that went into the
creation of Starship Titanic, including explanations of
VelociText and SpookiTalk.
Another good read is the "Lovely Special Inaugural
Commemorative Heirloom First Class In-Flight Magazine,"
which is the publication that actual first class passengers
would have received had the ship made it to its maiden
voyage. Aside from being entertaining, there are also many
hints hidden in there. Legal hints. Not the kind of hints
that make you feel dirty in the morning.
Now looking back on this review, I'm somewhat
embarrassed. I don't want to sound like I'm sucking up to
Douglas Adams or anyone at The Digital Village, which would
garner me about as many benefits as offering a Marilyn
Manson CD to Tom Delay. The good news, if bad news can be
good news, is that there's bad news.
First, don't even think of playing Starship Titanic with
Indeo Video 5 installed. After getting through the opening
scene once, this extension crashed the game every time the
DoorBot tried to speak. What more can you expect from an
extension created by Intel? Second, the video stutters a lot
throughout the game. I was constantly plagued with frame
stalls on my 604e/200, despite being well above the minimum
system requirements. Also, the dialogue rarely ever matches
the movement of the characters' lips. Luckily, most of the
characters don't have lips, so this really isn't much of an
And that, my friends, is pretty much it for the
negatives. I'm actually surprised by how much I like this
game. After I'd been looking forward to it for so long, and
having such high expectations because it was coming from
Douglas, I honestly expected to be disappointed. But no.
This game was well worth the wait, and can even be
considered one of Douglas's best works. Despite all the eye
and ear candy, it's the game's sense of humor that makes it
stand out above other adventure games. Starship Titanic not
only sets a new standard for computer gaming, but for the
whole of computer entertainment as well.
Oh, and the novel from Terry Jones is pretty good too.
Did I mention to you that I once made them laugh?
Raised on Intellivision and "Tron,"
Hiner has been an avid gamer ever
since he was tall enough to look through the viewfinder on
the Battlezone upright. Although he makes a living using a
PC (not by choice) to design websites for Dynamics
Online, Inc., Kirk never strays
from his 9600/200 or 3400c for computer gaming. When he's
not playing the latest Logicware release, he can either be
found working on his next "never to be published" novel,
rereading anything by Kurt Vonnegut or watching RAW is
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