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The Starship Damrey (3DS eShop)

Game Review

The Starship Damrey Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

A short story adventure

There's a reason that some gamers get excited at the news of Guild01 and Guild02 localisations in the West, as Level-5's collections gather some of the Japanese development community's finest names to produce small titles of, well, whatever genre they feel like trying out. The Starship Damrey is the first of the second collection to come West, from Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko, with a focus on storytelling above all else. This isn't survival horror, it's not quite a puzzle adventure, and we'd categorise it more as an interactive story. When played in the right circumstances, with headphones in a quiet room, the atmosphere has the ability to draw you in for the short time that it lasts.

Set aboard the Starship Damrey, you awaken in a sleep capsule that you can't leave on your own, forcing you to use a computer to control a robot throughout the ship. You don't know who you are, what you're supposed to be doing or why, so it's simply a case of figuring it all out by yourself.

It's a risky premise to try in the modern age of gaming, but this title's simplicity means that it succeeds without baffling and confusing the player. In fact, the trickiest puzzle is at the start as you boot up your computer, a quirky segment that immediately immerses you into the tale. Once you've taken control of your robot the meat of the experience begins, as you clunkily maneuver — it is a robot, after all — throughout the ship with the d-pad, while regularly stopping to explore the immediate vicinity with the Circle Pad.

You start off with a map of unknown rooms, and a pattern quickly emerges: you move to the next room, explore it thoroughly — looking for the tell-tale prompt to learn about or interact with an item — and then move onto the next area. Early on that's the focus, and you gradually earn a greater perspective of the environment, discovering items and individuals and, piece by piece, form the beginnings of an understanding of what's happened on the ship.

Puzzles do come into play, but the structure remains simplistic courtesy of a fairly linear progression and the robot's ability to carry just one item at a time. The ship is split up into three floors and plenty of rooms, but with ID cards to be discovered that allow access to various areas, it's difficult to go too far off course. In our playthrough there were just two occasions where we were stuck, but both times brief backtracking and experimentation brought the solution into the open.

In that respect, this game rewards diligent focus in order to avoid missing details, with some items requiring multiple but logical scans. Anyone looking for mind-bending challenge will be disappointed, but the puzzles do at least necessitate a steady, gradual exploration, in the process setting the narrative tempo on the game's terms. Add in the methodical and mechanical movement of the robot, and it's clear that the game, rather than the player, is determining the experience.

And that is fitting. As we've suggested before, this is more an interactive story than a video game, reminiscent of exploration point-and-click PC titles of past gaming eras. The story is only told with a clear narrative at the end, in what is a fairly clever denouement, and what comes before is a mystery to be unpicked one item description or journal entry at a time. What matters is that, regardless of it 'reading' like a re-tread of sci-fi tales well-worn, it's compelling and effective. Our playthrough took just three hours, but would have been in one sitting had it not been for the inconvenience of a meal interfering progress. You start off knowing nothing, and the experience compels you to remedy that, one room at a time.

Presentation does matter with this story-telling approach, though luckily for The Starship Damrey design and concept matters more than the raw visuals, which are choppy and not far beyond N64 standards. The 3D effect is shallow but adds a little to the overall result, while sound design is well done with clunks and bangs occasionally serving to spook you out. The only weaknesses are the occasional pre-rendered cut-scenes, which are betrayed by poor resolution that, ultimately, looks worse than the main game engine.

Despite the crudity of the graphics, the art design does serve its purpose rather well. The ship is a brooding metallic shell, with its darkness and look giving it a cold, foreboding vibe. Beyond the realities of crew quarters and storage rooms, there are some touches of the supernatural that can genuinely put you on edge. Peculiarly, we also became rather attached to our robot, which shows glimpses of heroism and humour at key moments; we may have been controlling it, but that speaks volumes for the solid scripting on show.

Ultimately, what serves to let this game down is that, for some, it'll be a little short, while the minimalist approach and simplistic puzzles can be considered negatives. Extras such as spotting and exterminating space leeches scattered around the ship and an option to link save data from Guild01 releases on the system give little pay off, with extra back-story and little more. It's over as fast as it's begun, with no real reason to play through again, while the robot's mechanical movement can be imprecise and a frustration at points.

Whether this provides an enjoyable experience is strongly dependent on the audience, in that case, as this title may struggle to hit the universal appeal of more cinematic, flowing exploration adventure games, with design choices and pacing that can feel a tad over deliberate. That said, if the concept is appealing, we'd suggest that this experience does deliver with compelling, atmospheric storytelling. Recent confirmation of additional "chapters" to be released are good news, in that respect, as much is left unexplained, with plenty of context ready to be clarified.

Conclusion

The Starship Damrey is more like a narrative experience than a typical video game, harking back to retro equivalents of the PC-age in the '90s. Rarely taxing, with the only dead ends coming because of a failure to thoroughly explore rooms and find relevant objects, it's all about the environment and piecing together a storyline. It's well written and utterly engrossing for fans of the genre or mystery sci-fi, even if its deliberate pacing and simplistic approach can be a turn-off to some. We expect this to be a divisive title, and it could do with a little extra content, but delivers exactly what it has promised, and is unapologetic as it does so.

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User Comments (48)

Sanqet

#1

Sanqet said:

If it is not to dear ill download this tonight and give it a go as it sounds like a game ill enjoy

RR529

#2

RR529 said:

Seems like an interesting experience, and since I haven't played anything like it before, I think I'll give it a go sometime this week.

Good Review.

EaZy_T

#3

EaZy_T said:

Sounds like a neat little experiment. I want to try this out sometime.
I'm curious about the save data linking with the Guild01 games and what kind of extra story there is with/from them.

Grubdog

#4

Grubdog said:

Great review, it's a hard game to explain but you nailed it. It's nice to hear people giving this game a chance. Very worthwhile experience even if it's not the best "game".

LEGEND_MARIOID

#6

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Its sort of Hotel Duskish, but with that 90s sci-fi PC game-ism about it. Very much a "What now? Oh yeah!" Game. Heh heh

tudsworth

#8

tudsworth said:

@EaZy_T If you own any of the Guild01 games (conveniently, they're all on sale in both the EU and US eShops right now) and have played any of them at least once, you can unlock an extra chapter from the main menu. Said chapter is text-only, no gameplay, but it adds some extra context to the story.

Prof_Clayton

#9

Prof_Clayton said:

I'm so conflicted on this game. It must be a good story to score that highly despite its faults, but I've read these kinds of stories before.
If it goes on sale I'll probably buy it.

BlackSpy

#10

BlackSpy said:

Was going to buy this., but I'll put it off in favor of Pushmo and Dillon's Rolling Western.

Gnoll

#12

Gnoll said:

@RaymanFan2
It's an interactive story like Hotel Dusk, but luckily hasn't got the pages and pages (and pages and pages) of text, nor the visibly arbitrary "do some very specific mystery thing or stay stuck here" mechanic I hated soooo much in it. Even if The Starship Damrey is five times shorter, it's way better than Hotel Dusk or Another Code and IMHO one of the best eshop games.

Gnoll

#13

Gnoll said:

I also like the metaphor on videogaming running through the story, as your charachter is unable to affect the world directly and can only use an OS and interact through an avatar, just like, you know, a person playing a videogame.

Geez, I think I like this game too much. I just need to find a picture of the AR robot to use as my avatar on NL... ;-)

Sneaker13

#15

Sneaker13 said:

This was the same grade I gave it on the forums. It's nowhere near as good as other adventures like Another Code or Hotel Dusk, but it's a nice, short story in a nice, little adventure game.

ajcismo

#16

ajcismo said:

Picked it up, only played it for about an hour. Requiring the user to keep the sound on makes it difficult to really sit down and play it in my house. I've enjoyed it so far, but you're right, it does look like a N64 game in spots. I'd like to see more of this genre and even the concept of starting a game with nothing but the screen and buttons in front of you.

BulbasaurusRex

#17

BulbasaurusRex said:

Sounds pretty boring to me, and the indirect controls, lackluster presentation, almost zero replay value, and fractured story just turn me off even more.

ohhaime

#19

ohhaime said:

I think I'll wait until parts two and three are released before I get it.(IF they get released in NA that is)

Gioku

#21

Gioku said:

I'm really not sure about this one... $7.99 for 3 hours and the graphics aren't much better than the N64... if it ever goes on sale, I might get it. The promise of DLC might convince me, too.

KnightRider666

#22

KnightRider666 said:

@ohhaime: I agree with you. I wonder if NL will give us another review of the game as a whole w/ the additional content when it comes out? I'm either going to wait for that, or a discount. There are just too many other great games on the eshop to enjoy right now to take a gamble on this game for $8. I'm hooked on the new Mario & DK game. Now's there a good $10 well spent:)

Dpullam

#23

Dpullam said:

I was hoping that this game would of been 8-10 hours long. I guess I'll just pick up Oracle of Seasons instead since that game looks fantastic. It's a shame really, because I am really interested in these types of games. I just don't want the game to end before I've even started to enjoy it. Until this game receives a discount, I'll consider it a pass for me. Good review though.

Aqueous

#26

Aqueous said:

I'm interested in this. I'm thinking of downloading it now but I'm going to wait to a low game period or perhaps sale.

@ThomasBW84 - You made it sound like this is only part of the story. Does that mean that there is more? Coming by Spotpass, another game or DLC? I enjoyed this review, thank you.

ThomasBW84Admin

#27

ThomasBW84 said:

@Aqueous Bizarrely, the reference I saw referring to confirmed sequels is no longer there, but I'll investigate. What I read was that there'll be new entries in the next two years.

Windy

#28

Windy said:

I have liked what I have played so Far and would agree with the review. The sound on the 3DSXL though is low. I wish I had downloaded this to my 3DS with the better sounding speakers. My wife is taking over the XL when Animal Crossing comes out anyway maybe I will just do a complete system Transfer

Gnoll

#30

Gnoll said:

The story doesn't leave any loose threads, but sure the setting is very interesting and could use some other great "short story adventure" like this one.

BakaKnight

#31

BakaKnight said:

Great review, really describe well the game and say literally everything while spoilering nothing (which is really really important with games like this!).

A shame this game is so short or a luck in my case, I'm not really good dealing with spooky settings and this game know how to keep you in tension, not sure if I would have got to the end if it was longer XD

Taya

#32

Taya said:

I'm really interested in this game. I may buy it now, or wait for it to go on sale.

andrea987

#33

andrea987 said:

I'll go back and play Infinite Space. For the third time. Now THAT is a game worthy of a sequel, for which I'll gladly pay good money.

Hours_Left

#35

Hours_Left said:

Great review. Personally, I loved the game. It could of been expanded in a few ways, but the experience itself was really engrossing. Anyone looking for a real atmosphere heavy game with an interesting story should give this one a go.

I've read a couple places that the Japanese version has a different bonus short story than the English version. The English one is about the Space Leeches while the Japanese version's story may be about Alex. It's hard to get a confirmation about this though since there isn't much info about this game online. I've tried sending Level-5 a message too but they haven't responded yet.

If there is another bonus short story, I hope they do translate it into English and release it somehow. (Just like I'd imagine that the Japanese fans would want our Space Leech story translated in Japanese too.)

sweetiepiejonus

#38

sweetiepiejonus said:

Guild collections proof that experimental games don't have to be garbage as long as the right minds are in charge.

@AtariRainbow

Boring as in you were expecting an action title? Can you clarify? I mean I wouldn't watch a Cronenberg or Lynch film if I was in the mood for a comedy.

Austroid

#39

Austroid said:

Eh... I was interested in this, but now not so much. $8 is a bit of a stretch, considering the faults in the gameplay length department. Maybe if it goes on sale I'll give it a go.

Jordan1834

#40

Jordan1834 said:

One thing the creaters of
Level-5 games needs to know that people like me and many others just dont comprehend games you make. For one they are short and they have outrageous plots and themes. All that I am saying why would you spend money on a game you can't barley understand,? but we have our own opinions if you love stupid plots and themes get it if you don't find a game worth playing.
follow me on my 3DS friend code
0903-4118-2953

tovare

#41

tovare said:

From the looks of it I'm going to really enjoy this game :-)

(It made me think of Suspended from infocom)

WiiLovePeace

#42

WiiLovePeace said:

I may pick it up one day, if only for the "no tutorials" aspect of the game. I love it when a game that focusses on exploration doesn't flat out tell me where to go, the sense of achievement of figuring out what to do next from my own noggin is amazing & awesome, not a lot of games allow for that feeling these days :(

MeloMan

#43

MeloMan said:

I'm a person that's liked/played games like Shadowgate, Deja Vu, Uninvited, Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, Monkey Island, Secret Files: Tunguska, Trace Memory, and Hotel Dusk, so I'm convinced I will like this game. No handholding... point and click-ish... I'm there.

theblackdragonAdmin

#45

theblackdragon said:

I completed this game last night, and I would say to wait for it to go on sale. It's not a bad game, it's just that it's very short for the $8 with nothing in the way of replay value, especially after you've already done everything.

King_Boo

#46

King_Boo said:

The best way I could sum it up is, left me wanting more.
It was an enjoyable experience, but it wasn't wholly satisfying.

DreamOfArcades

#48

DreamOfArcades said:

@RaymanFan2 if you haven't already played Starship Damrey your comment comparing it to Hotel Dusk were spot on. I find them both guilty pleasures amongst my game library. Frustrating and yet oddly alluring and rewarding. After battling with other terrible reviews I gave in and bought it. If you were happy to have played hotel dusk high like starship Damrey more. But it's very short

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