There's something alluring about silence. Silent protagonists allow us to map something of ourselves onto a fantasy figure. A well-placed silence in a conversation can both comfort and unnerve. And, as Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko (director and writer of The Starship Damrey respectively) have proved, silence from developers themselves can be just as intriguing.
Their complete unwillingness to reveal anything of the newest entry in Level-5's GUILD project besides a name and some wilfully foggy screenshots certainly piqued our interest. The fact that they carry that approach into the game itself - telling you that it "contains no tutorials or explanations" on the opening screen - got us positively giddy with expectation. Unfortunately, one side effect of silence is that when it's finally broken, what comes out is often less interesting than anything you'd conjured up in your head in the meantime.
If you have any interest in playing the game as its creators intend you to, it might be wise to stop reading. That said, if you've read the score below (and, let's face it, you have), perhaps hold off on spending that £8 until you know exactly what it is the creators want to get you into.
The Long Sleep
From a character perspective, The Starship Damrey takes place entirely within a small box. Locked in a cryostasis pod, suffering from amnesia and unable to communicate with anyone but a horribly voiced AI (think a voiceover actress from an M&S advert during a visit to the world's dullest toilet), you'll spend your first half hour fixing the ship's computer system, hijacking a maintenance robot and attempting to escape to start the real exploration.
It's an opening that seems to live up to the game's promise. Feeling your way around the pod (shown constantly on the touchscreen), rebooting the OS through a system vaguely reminiscent of cult PC hacking sim, Uplink, and finally starting your first-person robo-trundle through the eerie, tar-dark environs of the Damrey itself is as much about learning the ropes as it is learning the story.
That's about all there is to it; your time with AR-7, the Little Robot That Mostly Couldn't, makes up the rest of the game's three-hour duration. After the learning, the game - a point 'n' click adventure, presented in the perspective of an almost action-free first-person dungeon crawler - can begin.
The Damrey is a series of slowly unlocked keycard doors, long, blank corridors, neon-signposted "use item on other item" obstacles, the odd corpse and the even more occasional jump-scare.
There's little feeling to the place beyond emptiness (which only works in the game's favour when you don't know exactly what you should be doing), with only the scares offering anything close to the sort of consistent surprise Damrey's creators seemed to suggest were the game's stock in trade.
We might have felt better about the game if we'd been given a straightforward explanation of it; the atmosphere is at least well constructed, and the simplistic design can be put down to a team experimenting with a genre for the first time. But we weren't. Silence might be alluring, but that can make it feel worse than a simple lie.