The Starship Damrey Review
The Starship Damrey Review – Introduction
In the gaming days of yore, things like tutorials, objective markers, and pop-up hints were very uncommon. For some, these forms of guidance take away exploration, self-discovery, and challenge, and they yearn for more titles to be like those of old. The developer duo Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko apparently agree, because that’s the basis for Starship Damrey, their entry in Level-5’s Guild02 compilation.
No Hand-Holding Allowed
Mentioned in the game’s opening screen, Damrey contains absolutely no tutorializing. It’s a sci-fi horror adventure that plops players in a small, pitch black room on board a starship, with only a glowing switch on the wall that’s visible. After figuring how to turn the lights on, it’s revealed that the room is a locked cryosleep container, and the only way to open it is with the help of one of the ship’s security robots.
The bot is controlled via the Damrey’s computer system, which must be repaired beforehand. This means fixing corrupted files, reconfiguring the keyboard’s arrow keys, and so forth. As tedious as this sounds, it’s obvious what needs to be done and is over relatively quickly. Once accomplished, the action switches to the robot’s camera, and the task of figuring out what happened to the ship and its crew begins.
The main objective is to get to the cryosleep facility and unlock the protagonist’s chamber. The room is also locked, so it’s up to the robot to find the correct keycard. Naturally, this involves scouring every nook and cranny of the ship, using the robot’s limited abilities to search, pick up, and move objects in order to solve puzzles.
At its best, the game provides a very haunting atmosphere. Roaming the Damrey’s darkened halls, with only the robot’s light to provide visibility, can be an eerie experience, especially when turning a corner only to discover a dead body.
That said, there’s never a true sense of fear or horror. Part of the problem is how formulaic the narrative is, which makes all of the scares (what little there are) and twists all too obvious. The other issue is the change the writing takes at the game’s midpoint, where the developers try to get cute and give the little robot a personality a la Wall-E or R2-D2. This new tone doesn’t last long, only appearing in one or two brief instances, but it’s enough to break immersion.
A Puzzling Turn of Events
Even though the writing mostly fails to deliver, and is serviceable at best, the design is pretty good. The lack of guidance is refreshing, and fits perfectly with the setting, and the puzzles are set up logically, more or less. Every item (or dead crew member) has some importance to it, so figuring out what to do eventually becomes clear, as long as one is paying attention.
However, a couple of the puzzles can lead to frustration. In one instance, there’s a hostile security robot that attacks the player’s bot, blocking its path to the next area. There really isn’t anything that hints at how to make the robot stop, so actually finding the solution requires too much backtracking and trial-and-error.
Even though it has its problems, Damrey is worth checking out. It’s the best of the Guild02 games, and it works as a nice, experimental experience. The lack of punch in the writing is probably the biggest letdown, but the attention to detail is enough to keep it engaging.
- Eerie atmosphere
- Nice visuals
- Intriguing premise
- Great design
- Writing doesn’t hold up
- Tedious backtracking
- Couple of the puzzles are too obtuse