Review of Beneath a Steel Sky by Antrax
An overrated classic
BASS suffers from extreme minimality. It’s not that only that the game is short. It’s also that dialogue options are few, many characters don’t really do anything or say anything interesting, puzzle solutions are usually a single step and you have access to very few inventory items. To add to this, puzzle solutions are usually found very close to the puzzles, so very little thinking is required.
The many computer interfaces are also severely limited.
The interface is awkward. To exhaust a dialogue tree, you have to repeatedly click the character, each time selecting another option. Coupled with the fact characters often have beginning-of-conversation and end-of-conversation animation, this is a time waster.
There’s an inconsistency regarding object combination, and some spots have both mouse buttons do the same thing, which robs the player of a description.
Puzzles are sometimes problematic, with reasonable interactions sometimes rejected with no explanation. Locations open up with no logical relation to the actions that triggered their opening up. Characters are somewhat inhuman, i.e. Foster often doesn’t bring up very relevant points when conversing with people, and most NPCs have absolutely no personality traits.
Some puzzles require dexterity. This is surmountable by slowing down the game (available in an in-game menu), but is really uncalled for, as it doesn’t add any challenge to the game, only annoyance.
Characters wander around which can be annoying and hardly livens up the game universe given the above. Moreover, they can get in your way, and you always have to wait for Joey when moving between floors, for some reason.
All in all, the best way to describe BASS is “functional”. It provides a story and some puzzles, I’ve encountered no bugs, game-breaking or otherwise, and usually you can figure out what to do next (at worst, wander around all screens again to see if anything’s changed). Some pixel hunting (one particularly mean instance near the end of the game), some timed sequences and some silly solutions are still present, but overall a typical adventurer will find this game manageable.
Hence my rating - there’s nothing particularly bad about this game, just a list of minor annoyances, and on the other hand nothing really stands out about it, either.
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Time Played: 2-5 hours