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The Starship Damrey review

Hello darkness my old friend/Won't you please make this game end

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.

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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.

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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.

Comments

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  1. Aboyandhissequel Saturday 29th Jun 2013 at 13:33

    Tom why do you bother reviewing anything that's more mature or left of field? Unless it has check points or is as easy as 1,2,3 you always end up whining about it.

    Get a new profession.

  2. wilfrefanguy Saturday 29th Jun 2013 at 15:17

    why do onm only give the big games good reviews and the little ones bad reviews

  3. NP Chilla Saturday 29th Jun 2013 at 21:39

    56%? Be reasonable, it's worth more than THAT!

    The game creates a fascinating world of its own and demonstrates a wry sense of self-awareness at times; there's some real pathos in there.

  4. pkgeno Saturday 29th Jun 2013 at 23:06

    Jesus! This review is horrible!

    This game is actually really good! Its a bit short but thats the only bad part about it I could find. I beat it in under three hours but those three hours were really great.

    In conclusion: This review sucks ***.

  5. OXM Joe Sunday 30th Jun 2013 at 13:01

    Tom why do you bother reviewing anything that's more mature or left of field? Unless it has check points or is as easy as 1,2,3 you always end up whining about it. Get a new profession.

    Firstly, that's unnecessarily rude. Secondly, pay attention to who wrote the review befoe you attack someone about it. I did, and as the guy who put together a fairly massive feature about the GUILD series I'd say I have a fairly stated interest in left of field games.

    I genuinely don't understand what you got out of this. I completed the game with every secret unlocked and found the entire thing completely unsatisfying - a series of nice setups left to wilt as you trundle from one obvious puzzle to the next.

    It's a poor adventure game and a vapid story. Its atmosphere is all it has going for it, and that's ruined once you understand there's very little behind it.

  6. Aboyandhissequel Sunday 30th Jun 2013 at 14:01

    [ Secondly, pay attention to who wrote the review befoe you attack someone about it. .

    Do you think I'm stupid? I don't make the effort to comment on anything you write Joe, as you are a reasonably poor reviewer with little credibility, who only got the job because you went to University down the road from the offices.

    No, I saw that this was Thomas's review yesterday with my very own eyes; it said Thomas East at the top and it had a totally different review line next to the score. So now I'm intrigued why you've changed that information.

    Then again, I couldn't care less - nothing changes. I enjoy the podcasts (especially when you yourself isn't trying to be the Mr I'm so smart and kooky College grad humour type) and I respect Chandra's writing and Gavin's take on things. But that's all. Ever since I saw a certain somebody mark a previous game down for being too hard; I give up. I want mature coverage and I'm getting plenty of it elsewhere.

  7. OXM Joe Sunday 30th Jun 2013 at 14:42

    I give up. I want mature coverage and I'm getting plenty of it elsewhere.

    Bye!

  8. stealth1497 Sunday 30th Jun 2013 at 15:44

    [ Secondly, pay attention to who wrote the review befoe you attack someone about it. .

    Do you think I'm stupid? I don't make the effort to comment on anything you write Joe, as you are a reasonably poor reviewer with little credibility, who only got the job because you went to University down the road from the offices.

    No, I saw that this was Thomas's review yesterday with my very own eyes; it said Thomas East at the top and it had a totally different review line next to the score. So now I'm intrigued why you've changed that information.

    Then again, I couldn't care less - nothing changes. I enjoy the podcasts (especially when you yourself isn't trying to be the Mr I'm so smart and kooky College grad humour type) and I respect Chandra's writing and Gavin's take on things. But that's all. Ever since I saw a certain somebody mark a previous game down for being too hard; I give up. I want mature coverage and I'm getting plenty of it elsewhere.

    Seriously?! This is ridiculous. Okay, the majority who have commented here seem to be saying that the game is better than the review score suggests. But I don't think you can argue when ONM have given almost exactly the same percentage as the average of everyone else - http://www.metacritic.com/game/3ds/the-starship-damrey

  9. Waldy565 Sunday 30th Jun 2013 at 22:54

    @Aboyandhissequel I really don't get people like you. You join a community, only to belittle the people who created it? Then why join in the first place, and more importantly, STAY?! It makes no sense. If you don't like the reviewers so much you have to offend them, then good riddance, yourself and other like you are not wanted on a site that is normally intellectual and fair in it's arguments and debates. Exceptions tend to be E3 :P

  10. Aboyandhissequel Monday 1st Jul 2013 at 12:10

    @Aboyandhissequel I really don't get people like you. You join a community, only to belittle the people who created it? Then why join in the first place, and more importantly, STAY?! It makes no sense. If you don't like the reviewers so much you have to offend them, then good riddance, yourself and other like you are not wanted on a site that is normally intellectual and fair in it's arguments and debates. Exceptions tend to be E3 :P

    As I said, Chandra (and Chris has continued in his new place) are both what I regard to be pretty much perfect Nintendo writers - Gavin also does an interesting job on the TV side of things. The podcasts on the whole are also good. But the reviews from most of the others are absolutely bringing the whole thing down to a level that's so awful it's untrue. Writing to everyone like they are 12 yrs old with horrendous childish jokes and puns all the way through - then, when something a little different comes along, they all of a sudden become very serious journalists and just slate the game. Often from Tom for being too difficult without checkpoints and being boring etc.

    Can you imagine what would have happened if some of these people would have been writing reviews since the NES days? When most of the games were difficult and/or slow burners with limited story development etc? Not a single game aside from Mario Brothers would have got anything higher then 70%.

    Remember, the guys who are making most of these Eshop games that get slaughtered are the kind of guys who are from the generation that played these kind of things growing up, and want to offer that challenge/experience to players both old and new. And, because some people take review scores absolutely seriously, whereby they won't buy anything that isn't green on Metacritic, a lot of people are missing out on the rather awesome feelings you get from playing a game that isn't (and often deliberately so) hardcore in it's feel and execution. Some ONM writers time and time again are saying to the existing generations and, worst of all, the new ones; really, don't waste your time on experiences that are just a little different; go and play Just Dance or wait for Wii Fit U (which made it higher on the anticipated list than some stuff from the likes of Platinum, says it all.)

    And I'm saying all this because believe it or not ONM is important to me: it's the biggest Nintendo voice in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe- it gets name-checked, referred to and referenced with more then any other. The image it portrays to everyone about what Nintendo fans 'are' in this country is so off the mark it's untrue.

    To finish this off I have PM'd in the past to get my account deleted but to no avail. Obviously I'd do this myself but there is no option.

    Oh, and it seems I'm not the only one here that's unhappy with the review. It's just that the other chaps were better at holding off than I was.

  11. tomonm Monday 1st Jul 2013 at 12:52

    I'll respond but considering you talk about leaving constantly, you may not read it. Your opinion on me is based on one Mutant Mudds review which I gave 70%. Believe it or not, 70% is a good score. I quite liked it. I did [point out that it could have done with checkpoints. Not because it was too difficult but the levels themselves weren't exciting enough, meaning I didn't enjoy replaying the same section over and over again.

    Note that I didn't have any problem with VVVVVV in which I died 1,600 times! A tough game which saw me replaying the same section over and over again. I hardly review anything anyway (I haven't reviewed a single game this year) so you base your opinion of me on one game. It seems to me that you don't read that many of our reviews anyway. Still, I've been doing this job for a long time. I can take the criticism.

    It's fine to criticise a review or say you disagree with it. No problem but do consider people's feelings. Some of your posts have been very rude and insulting.

    Like I say, you probably won't read this because you're going to find a more mature website.

  12. MartinIsAwesome Monday 1st Jul 2013 at 14:21

    Oh dear, what have I walked in on...? 0_0

    May I just say that 56% isn't even that bad a score. Being in the middle it should be takenas an average score, not a scaving one.
    Also, who bothers to read a review for a game that they've already bought and decided they liked?

    Starship Damrey was the one I was most looking forward to in the new Guild02 games, so it's a shame to see that you found it as disappointing as you did. I would like to ask, would you say that it could still be worth checking out if it appears in an eShop sale?

  13. smash-brother Tuesday 2nd Jul 2013 at 18:50

    why do onm only give the big games good reviews and the little ones bad reviews


    vvvvvv 88%

    p.s. is this a way to find and destroy the jerks

  14. Jophis Friday 12th Jul 2013 at 12:29

    I genuinely don't understand what you got out of this.

    C'mon Joe, surely that moment when The Blue Danube Waltz started playing gave you a chuckle? :lol:

    I enjoyed this game quite a bit actually. Atmosphere is good, cutscenes were fun to see, though there were some typically illogical puzzle solving. The game feels like it should have came out 20 years ago on DOS, which is probably why it can be quite polarising. Definitely understand your qualms though.

  15. JPF Tuesday 16th Jul 2013 at 11:04

    For what it's worth, I enjoyed this game. It may not have amazing production values, it may be considered too short, but it was a nice little experience that I'm glad I bought and would like to be expanded upon in the future

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