I know that it’s probably heresy to say this, but I’ve always preferred Revolution’s point and click adventures to the Monkey Island series. Somehow their games always seemed a lot more logical with stories that held a greater appeal for me. Beneath A Steel Sky (BASS) is one of their best.
You play Robert Foster, a man brought up in the outer wilderness in a dystopian future. Kidnapped and taken to the big city, Foster manages to get free and, with the help of his little robot friend, Joey, must find out who he really is.
The graphics were a major selling point of BASS on first release and they have held up well. Originally drawn by Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen fame) they look every bit as impressive as you would expect. Within the technical limitations of the day, Gibbons did an excellent job creating a vast, sprawling futuristic city; full of great looking locations and idiosyncratic characters. The muted colour scheme complements the dystopian future perfectly.
Hmmm. Now what do I do now?
Voice acting is of good quality throughout the game and, crucially, the voices for both Foster and Joey are spot on, perfectly capturing their character. Dialogue is a real high point of BASS. In particular the banter between Foster and Joey is inspired. It communicates a sense of friendship and warmth between the man and his robot and it’s genuinely funny – it’s worth playing the game just to hear their bickering. It’s one of those games where you will want to try out every possible line of dialogue, just to see what response it provokes.
It’s the gameplay, though, that will make or break any adventure game and BASS again nails it. Overall, I’d say the game is probably more straightforward than many adventures. That’s not to say it’s easy or that you will complete it quickly – there’s still plenty of game time and challenging puzzles–the puzzles just seem more logical. There were certainly fewer moments in BASS when I was left scratching my head, clueless as to what I should be doing. The answers are not always instantly obvious (particularly later in the game), but nor do they require increasingly unlikely combinations of actions. The puzzles always feel fair and solvable if you think about them in the context of the game, and a little lateral thinking will usually reveal the answer, making it a rewarding title to play.
The only time this breaks down is in the game’s very last puzzle. Like the infamous goat puzzle in Broken Sword, it is the only one that relies on reactions as well as brainpower: you have a limited amount of time in which to work out what you need to do and how to do it and failure results in death. In fairness, this is alleviated by the fact that you are returned straight to this point and can try again, but it’s the only time the game feels unfair.
Physical copies of Beneath a Steel Sky are pretty common and can regularly be found for as little as a pound. Better still, Revolution have kindly made the original into Abandonware, meaning it can be legally downloaded for free (a later, enhanced and re-mastered edition is also available for purchase on iOS devices). Either way, it’s a game that no self-respecting adventurer should be without.