Imagine a world where Alone in the Dark didn't look like a cartoon, was set in space and starred a cyborg with so little human flesh remaining that even Darth Vader or a Dalek would seem more of a human. That's BioForge. A mysterious adventure game that tasks you with regaining your memory, escaping evil and struggling with tank controls. What fun!
It looks really rather good, and I've got no knowledge of what it is beyond what's written about it in the 1001 book. So, let's tell you the story of how I've come to be holding a severed arm...
A short and rather slow introductory cut scene reveals that we're in prison, essentially, after presumably having been experimented on, if not outright turned in a cyborg. A helpful robot informs us that we are not to try anything, which merely results in the first puzzle of the game:
How to get out of our cell How to control our character.
BioForge has you pushing a lot of keys. Movement is mapped to the number pad, with various amounts of steps, shuffles and turns on each key. They can be modified by the Shift key to go into a sprint, or by the C key to enter combat mode, where your movements are a little more cagey and controlled.
Once in combat mode, you can further modify the keys with the Alt or Control key to perform different attacks, with both your fists and your feet, and you are surprisingly adept at using both of them. I believe I roundhouse kicked the problem into the solution - nurse bot plus dangerous energy bar shield thing equals no more dangerous energy bar shield thing.
This, by the way, was learned with careful studying of the manual, because I don't think you can stumble upon these controls on your own. We'll ignore that the solution to the problem was also written in the manual, shall we?
Further Fun Times
I'm not a fan of the controls by any means, but when you put them to the test in combat (which, thankfully, has difficulty options, so Easy it is), you can see how so much effort was put into your characters movements. It's an early form of motion capture, and it really pays off, especially when watching a prisoner getting slapped around with his own arm.
That fight took a lot out of me, for which there's the ability to recover some health via a transfer of energy from your battery. Interesting system, but it ultimately means instead of health packs I need battery packs. It's cumbersome, certainly, but that's no different from the rest of the game, and I'm sure we can let that slide...
|Thank you, GameFAQs...|
As you can imagine, I got stumped really rather quickly in BioForge and turned to a guide in no time at all. The puzzles and their solutions made some sense, which was nice, and the manual does say to basically press the space bar in front of everything to see what happens, so armed with a few pointers I tried my best, ending up at a door that needed a hand to open.
Why... I appear to have a severed arm, complete with hand. I wonder if that'll work...?
Turns out it does - after you remote control a nurse bot like a claw machine to pick it up and stick it over the scanner while you reprogram the computer to accept it as a new hand before finally using it for its intended purpose of getting through a bloody door. Or something like that.
I mean, I understand that that makes sense in the world and that it's never as easy as it seems in the movies, but for a game touted as an interactive movie, I expected a little bit of easier time, certainly to begin with, and even if I am escaping from prison.
After seeing the effort I'd have to go through in order to get through the door, I called it quits.
I quit because I don't have time to faff around these days, and trying to control anything in BioForge is a bit of a faff. I've since learned that you will eventually have to faff around while under strict time limits, so it's a good job I jumped off when I did and started watching instead.
BioForge is thick with journal entries and the like, that require you to do as much inside computer screens and logbooks than in the world itself, especially if you want to know some backstory as to what's going on, rather than just solving each problem as it comes. The game even came with log entries and the like printed into a booklet for you to read, such is the depth of the plot the developers wanted to tell.
As a landmark for technology, or as a sneak peak at the future of video games, BioForge really does earn its spot in the list, but its gameplay is definitely from another time. You could argue that the clunky movement and controls fit the theme of a man struggling to adapt to his new clunky cyborg body, or that wanting the game to be more like an interactive movie required some bumbling around, especially with fixed camera angles, but whatever you think, you'll probably need to be invested in BioForge to pick it up and play for yourselves.
It's not a casual game, it's not going to be the easiest, but it looks great, it's well produced, and it's unlike anything I can remember seeing so far.
Though it is like Alone in the Dark, obviously. But it's very, very different...
An abrupt finish to BioForge would have been amended with expansions and sequels, which were marketed but ultimately cancelled before seeing the light of day.
BioForge, developed by Origin Systems, first released in 1995
Version played: MS-DOS, 1995, via emulation.
Version watched: MS-DOS, 1995 (xeelwarbeast)