Review by BlackMageJawa
"High technology, Conspiracy, Hidden Identity, and Wisecracking robots."
Originally released nearly 10 years ago, BaSS was the second game from Revolution Software, now best known for the Broken Sword series.
A spiritual follow-up to their previous game, Lure of The Temptress, BaSS built on the Virtual Theatre System used in Lure, which allowed them to create a living world where NPCs could act independently of the character- exploring by themselves and talking with others.
Unlike Lure, however, Steel Sky plays more like a traditional PnC. While Lure brought up a menu with different actions when you right-clicked a hotspot, BaSS uses just the standard Look and Use functions. Your inventory is stored in a drop-down bar hidden at the top of the screen, like Broken Sword, and your every move is controlled by the mouse.
Right, now let's get to the more important stuff- what's it all about?
Well, it's set far into the future of Earth. People live in huge metal cities that extend for miles into the air, so that people on ground level looking up can see nothing but the titular 'Steel Sky'.
Outside the City is a barren wasteland known as 'The Gap', wherein dwell tribes of people who live relatively primitive lives.
You are Robert Foster. As a child you lived in the City, until a helicopter crash killed your mother and left you stranded in the Gap with no way home. You were taken in by one of the tribes, and raised by the wise man until you all but forgot about life in the City.
Then one day, your foster father sees a premonition of great evil waiting in the steel city. Before long, another helicopter approaches, filled with soldiers from the City. They're going to take Robert home- whether he wants to go or not.
One spectacular crash later, Robert Foster is on the run in an unfamiliar landscape, with only his damaged robot pal JOEY for company, as he attempts to put right a corrupt society, expose the conspiracy, and figure out just who he really is and why everyone seems to want him- and all this is just in the comic-book styled opening cut scene!
BaSS' graphics, being almost a decade old, are difficult to rate. If you believe that everything has to be fully rendered 3D, don't even bother with Steel Sky. If, like me, you believe that sprites and pixels can be an art form in themselves, then you'll love BaSS. The characters are well animated, the environments look great, and there's even the occasional bit of primitive 3D in there. Yes it's rather fuzzy in places, but that can be forgiven based on its age.
Let's see, sound comes next- The CD version has a full (if occassionally buggy) speech track that really livens up events. There's an unusual collection of accents, and the acting is very well done. Again, however, age rears its ugly head, as there's often a lot of static and 'fuzzy' sound in the speech, and some lines just don't seem to fit together as if they were recorded and played seperately. It's no big deal, just a little annoying sometimes.
The puzzles are a little easier than your average PnC and mostly very logical- crowbarring open a door for example. Control, as already mentioned, is simple. A left click on the ground moves Robert to that point. LC on a hotspot to 'look' at it, and RC on a hotspot to use or pick it up. Move the cursor to the top of the screen to see your inventory where the same rules appply- LC to look at an object, RC to select it, RC on a hotspot with something selected to use it. While I usually prefer LC for use and RC for look, it doesn't take long to get used to.
Perhaps the best thing about BaSS, however, is that it's legally free. Yup, free. Revolution were kind enough to give the people behind the SCUMMVM system (a DOS emulator designed to run old Lucasarts adventures and other PnCs) the source code to BaSS in order to add support for it to the system. And now BaSS itself is freeware- just get the latest version of SCUMMVM from www.scummvm.org, and while you're there pick up Steel Sky. It weighs in at 7.3 Megs zipped for the floppy version, or if you want speech the CD version is 67 Megs zipped. It could well be the best thing you ever downloaded. So it doesn't even matter if you don't like it, all it cost you is a few minutes of your time. Give it a go.
CATEGORY SCORES (The first number is based on when it was released. The number in brackets is how it rates in the current gaming environment):
STORY: 10 (7) It was original, but many similar themes have been used since. Still great though.
SOUND: 9 (6) One of the first Talkie adventures. The acting's good, but the technology's lacking.
GRAPHICS: 10 (10/1) If you like spriteart, it's still a 10. If you're a graphics junkie, you'll loathe it.
CONTROL: 10 (10) The Point & Click: perfection itself.
Not the greatest PnC ever released, but still a great adventure. And it's FREE!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/28/04
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