Review by Seth0708
"In space no one can hear you type"
Silent Debuggers is an interesting shooter that appeared on the TurboGrafx-16. The game is highly reminiscent of the shooting stages of Contra. It was available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, but sadly has since been removed from there.
Silent Debuggers finds you, an adventurer and treasure hunter in the future, arriving at a derelict space station called OHME. You board the station and are soon attacked by alien creatures that seem to have infested it. Once you board the station begins a self-destruct countdown, forcing you to journey through the six levels of the station and "debug" the station's computer systems to stop the countdown. Like a lot of action games of the day, however, the plot really never plays that much into the game, although the countdown does in an interesting way.
Silent Debuggers progresses in real time, giving you a set amount of time to make it to the sixth level and shut down the countdown. To progress through each level, you are required to kill all the enemies present. This is done by moving from screen to screen and shooting everything. Any time you die, you are sent back to the last computer room you reached and receive a five minute penalty to your countdown. The game ends if this countdown reaches zero, but you have "unlimited" continues until that occurs.
Action takes place from a first-person perspective. Instead of moving around and shooting like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D, however, you will be fixed in position and move a cross hair across the screen to shoot at enemy attackers. In an interesting move, your "health points" and "ammunition" are both the same commodity, here called your "battery." The battery powers both your energy weapons and your life support. If it runs out, you die and return to the last computer room you accessed and take the time penalty mentioned before. Weapons that use a different type of ammunition can be found as you progress, but for the most part you will be sharing this mechanic between health and ammunition for most levels.
Each level of the station has a map with different "rooms" divided as sectors. You have a sensor system that changes color based upon where enemy attackers are. You move to these locations and try to find them in order to clear the level and move down to the next one. To make this more dynamic and, at times, difficult, whenever a sector gets attacked by your alien opponents it will begin to take damage. If it takes enough damage, it will be destroyed and will no longer allow passage through.
Further complicating matters, certain sectors provide different effects on the level. For example, each level has a sector that provides all lighting for the level. If this gets destroyed, you lose lighting for that level. There are other rooms for things like your sensor and for recharge stations.
What this amounts to is a primitive first-person shooting experience. The programmers seem to have wanted to take this game in that direction, but due to either time constraints or maybe hardware limitations they were forced to create a system of static screens with enemy encounters handled with the cross hair system. It doesn't help that the backgrounds all look the same as well, so you feel like you are lost in the same corridor everywhere you go. Also while the in game sound and music are decent, but by no means extraordinary, it is more helpful that the music seems to shift based upon your progress through each of the levels.
In a sense this feeling of claustrophobia is very reminiscent of the space horror genre Silent Debuggers is inspired by. Unfortunately this does not translate well into what feels more like a dungeon crawler than a survival horror game. If the battle system had been replaced with a turn-based RPG combat system one would think this a science fiction version of Wizardry. As it is, however, it just feels like a poorly executed shooter journey through identical looking corridors with no sense of structure or direction.
Gameplay: (15/50) Moving a cross hair across static screens with a controller has never been a particularly fun endeavor.
Story: (7/10) The strange hodge podge of concepts actually all have explanations rooted in the game's premise and background.
Challenge: (5/10) Nothing stands out as particularly difficult or easy.
Graphics: (13/20) For what sprites and backgrounds there are are actually pretty nice, the problem is that there simply is not a lot of variety to them.
Replayability: (0/10) Most gamers will likely bore of Silent Debuggers in one session, but even if you make it all the way through there is little reason to play again.
Overall: (40/100) Silent Debuggers is worth giving a shot, assuming you play it for free, if only to see how far we have come in the development of first person shooters.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/12
Game Release: Silent Debuggers (US, 1991)
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