A good opening is the most important part of every piece of fiction. A man kidnapped and taken into an industrial mega city. A helicopter crash and a narrow escape. Hiding inside a factory. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, perfectly aligned to the scenery as the metallic stomping of the machine almost becomes part of the tune. What else can we do but fall in love with this game?gains so much credit that it would be hard to spoil the overall impression later on. Good news: it never manages. It doesn't even try. Even if some small spots may appear on its shiny white vest.
Compared to Revolution Software's rather experimental previous game, things take a turn for the conservative here. Or it could be called a "classic interpretation of the adventure genre", depending on one's viewpoint. Robert Foster, controlled by the player, is fully in charge of his story, nothing ever happening in this world without Foster somehow triggering it. Early on, he receives the most human robotic sidekick since's Floyd, communicating in wonderfully sarcastic one-liners, changing shells as progress allows. This duo sets out to unravel the mystery of Foster's kidnapping which may decide the fate of the whole city. With an off-screen bad guy answering to the name of Overman whose goons run around in SS uniforms, it's not hard to guess what side of the moral compass the local authorities are on. Though why do they want Foster?
The urgency of the escape and the subsequent chase gets a bit lost after the first scenes. In typical adventure game style, the game world slowly opens up to allow for paced exploration. The stunning background artwork, provided by none other than the great Dave Gibbons, keeps overall atmosphere at a good level throughout, however.
The inherent shades of Metropolis in the way of the rich living safely underground whereas high up in the skyscrapers, the common people slave away to keep everything running are not particularly prominent as far as it comes to people. The unwashed masses are nowhere near a rebellion, but more concerned with everyday trivialities like their lunch break sandwich. The rich "elite" being represented mainly by an ignorant moron. People are still just people, it seems.
Meaning between strong, atmospheric scenes such as the exploration of the abandoned subway system, there is a lot of comic relief to be found. In places, it crosses the border towards over-the-top unfunny, most notably in the courtroom scene which really cannot be associated with the theme of an oppressive regime. Then, there are the visits to virtual reality/cyberspace. Such an abstract setting, a staple of the cyberpunk genre, is always hard to represent right. This particular instance unfortunately has turned out rather bland.
Speaking of bland, this term, unfortunately, also describes much of the gameplay. In more positive terms, it could be called "unoffensive". Controls, distinguishing just between examining and using/manipulating, work unobtrusively. Puzzles are solid, but overall unimaginative. They are logical across the board and combined with the simplistic controls not allowing for any specific actions, you will virtually never find yourself stuck. Frustration avoided, but also, there is nothing really worth remembering the gameplay for in positive ways, either.
With all this at least never getting in the way, players are free to simply enjoy the setting, take in the backgrounds, enjoy the nice animations and see the mystery unfold in predictable, but nevertheless entertaining ways. This is because essentially,offers the archetype of a story. Fans of genre material will appreciate it without a doubt.
Technical notes: The floppy version consists of 15 disks, playing it without a hard drive is hardly possible. If you have this version, don't try the built-in installer, because it has a bug which prevents you from installing more than the first disks. You have to copy the contents of the disks to your hd manually. The CD version (made for the CD32, but works perfectly on a A1200 or A4000 with a CD drive, too) features full speech in addition. This comes at the cost of not being able to save the game freely. Level codes are used instead to jump to specific pre-defined points in the game.