Wednesday 15 December 2021

Beyond a Steel Sky Review (Switch)

When we first reviewed Beneath a Steel Sky way back in the nineties it never really occurred to us that a sequel would arrive more than twenty years later. There have of course been rumours and previews of a sequel for years, but they always seemed to come to nothing. Finally, we now have the second instalment of the comedy cyber punk adventure.

The game starts ten years after the events of the original with the same protagonist (Robert Foster), living with a tribe in the vast wastelands (known as the gap), outside of Union City. After a child is kidnapped by a strange spider-like machine you find yourself drawn back once again into the corporate run mega city looking for answers.

The general look of the game works well to keep the spirit of the original alive and well. The cartoon style graphics are reminiscent of some of the telltale games and follows many of the traditional point and click adventurer tropes. Instead of moving a cursor around a screen, players now take direct control of Foster. As he moves around the 3D environment points of interest will pop up that can be interacted with once you move close enough. It’s pretty much the system we have come to expect from the many 2D point and click games that have made the jump into 3D worlds, and it works competently enough.

As well as the general wandering and picking up items the main gimmick of BASS is a hacking element. Most of the things that block your progress need tampering with in order to get them to do what you want. This takes the form of moving shapes around on a virtual circuit board. For instance, some machines will have instruction such as ‘Refill’ or ‘Empty’ written inside a shape such as a circle or diamond. Swapping the same shape around can then change the behaviour of the machine. Much of the game is then spent trying to get the machines with the right instructions that you want to swap within range of each other.

The general puzzle design is good but perhaps lacks some of the magic of the original. The dialogue and characters though are excellent throughout and feel right at home. The humour works and the game moves between darker satire and comedy smoothly, meaning nothing is ever too serious or too dark for the story being told. It also performs very well with nothing strikingly problematic in either docked or handheld mode. We were a bit worried about how the game would run on the Switch but it seems we had nothing to fear.

Overall, Beyond a Steel Sky is a welcome return for one of the most iconic point and click franchises of all time. It is clear Revolution have taken this sequel seriously and worked hard to make sure it fits in with the style and world of the original. It isn’t likely to become as iconic as it’s forebear but there is more than enough here for adventure fans to enjoy. Maybe even more importantly though it takes nothing away from the original game and stands on its own as a well-rounded experience that fans both new and old will enjoy immensely.

Overall, 7/10

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