I don't remember when or why I started watching other people playing games on YouTube, but I do remember that many, many years ago, Beneath a Steel Sky was among the first titles I watched, and not because I knew of the game or had played it before.
There I was, enjoying a game from a distance, knowing I would likely never be in a position to play such an old title. Here I am now, though, with a proper PC to watch YouTube on, and a game that is free for everyone to play. Free as in free, as in nought monies, as in no real excuse to see what it's about first hand.
Our adopted home has been destroyed and we're on the run from who knows what. We need to find answers, both as to what's going on, and to how to get through this point and click adventure in one piece.
No prizes for guessing the outcome to this entry.
Beneath a Steel Sky is the kind of title that makes you go 'huh?', and with that, makes you want to at least find out what kind of game it is, let alone what that title means. That's probably what my first thoughts were, way back when, when I first came across it online. It was a strange title, a sort of grimy science fiction adventure with wit and humour and pointing and clicking.
It didn't hurt that it looked so unlike what I was used to at the time. It's not like I wasn't aware of games that were only available in two dimensions, or that point and clicks were a thing, just that I hadn't seen anything like it before, and that's excluding the hand drawn introduction to set up the plot.
You play as Robert Foster, named after the drink as much as the fact that he has lost his parents and has grown up in the Gap, far away from home, adopted by the locals. Years later, the security forces come looking for you, and it all goes downhill from there.
It seems like each point and click has its own way of doing things, and by this point in time, I've forgotten what each one has introduced and perfected, so I'll just have to say that left clicks give more of a detailed idea of what you're looking at, and right click does whatever action it is that you probably want to do - doors want to be opened, buttons want to be pushed, people want to be talked to, for example.
Items can be picked up, combined, and used on other items in the world, and knowing these simple controls means you can get on with exploring your surroundings in whatever order you want.
Yeeeeaaaaah... about that exploring thing...
There comes a point in my point and click endeavours that I just have to sit back, sigh, and ask out loud 'just what the hell am I missing here?'
These games are designed to be poked and prodded, with solutions to problems making sense, even if it takes an age to find them. If you don't know how to get a robot moving, you talk to someone who might. Conversations with people, as well as your companion robot Joey, will open up new avenues for you to make progress - assuming you're smart enough to know where to look in the first place.
Those walkways up there should be familiar to players because they're seen early on in the game. They also happen to be my abandoning point, the area of which I saw no forward progress, despite knowing what needed to be done - I had to get down to the ground floor, probably via elevator... but how...?
There is a walkthrough that comes with the free release of Beneath a Steel Sky, and if I ever want to get through the game by my own hand, I might just follow it one day. It's only two pages long, such is its succinctness.
It says I should have jammed a spanner into some cogs and then got Joey transferred from his vacuum cleaner into a more useful robot shell. That's all well and good - upgrading Joey is a pretty obvious thing to do when one of the first things you do is stick his circuit board into a vacuum cleaner - but where the hell were the cogs I was supposed to jam?
|Aww no... Those were the cogs, weren't they...? Were they?|
It's little stumbling blocks like this that trip me up one too many times, eventually leading to the fun being sapped from my playtime. That and the sometimes odd positioning of the UI, but that's a really, really minor gripe.
It has been nice to play Beneath a Steel Sky, but I'm going to be watching it before playing it again. It's not that it plays bad by any means, but I certainly do play bad, especially in this genre.
The voice acting is hit and miss, the writing is as humorous as you'd expect from the kinds of games that are competing with the likes of Monkey Island, but the look and feel of the world are fantastic. I don't know what it is about it that I'm drawn towards, but drawn towards it I am.
It moves a little weird, full of pathing that clearly looks like it was decided by a script rather than a person, but I'm just clutching at straws if that's a reason to cast the game aside and never touch it.
I have the resources to finish the game, but not on my own. I need hints, and tips, and maybe that walkthrough, but if you don't, and you haven't played Beneath a Steel Sky yet. then get out there and do so, because it's great.
The Amiga version of the game came on 15 floppy disks and even then had content cut because of different Amiga setups.
Beneath a Steel Sky, developed by Revolution Software, first released in 1994.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1994, via emulation.
Version watched: MS-DOS, 1994 (Kikoskia, retroisland)