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Gaming Review

'Beneath A Steel Sky: Remastered' (iPhone)

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Released on Friday, Oct 9 2009



Also available on: N/A
Developer: Revolution Software (Interview)
Publisher: N/A
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Release date: October 8, 2009

The iPhone truly does make for an ideal adventuring system. While other genres will get neglected due to the lack of tactile face buttons, point-and-click games will relish with the touch screen. Seen as the most definitive examples of the genre, the tale of a man abducted from his aboriginal home and brought to a polluted and alien metropolis was a breath of fresh air compared to the more fantasy-styled romps of the time, and arrives favourably with the recent point-and-click resurgence.

As opposed to some of the vigourous remakes in recent years, this remastered version retains practically everything from the original. The visuals are perfectly downscaled to the screen, the sound is more defined and crisp, bugs are phased out, and the gameplay itself thankfully remains untouched. The only proper changes are full motion cutscenes, once again lovingly crafted by Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, that replace the static campfire at the introduction, and tease what could become a sequel after the credits.

Of course, the move to a more casual, portable device brings some interface changes. Touch control takes over from dragging and dropping using a cursor, and does a great job of representing pixel-hunting through holding the thumb and dragging it around the screen, which flashes up points of interest. Using items are a case of tapping the corner icon and dragging it across to whatever you want it combined to, and although at times you have to be quite precise - the tiny keypads at the LINC stations dotted around require a high degree of accuracy to use, for example - it makes for a surprisingly more involving way to play the game.

Another successful addition is the hint system. Also seen in the The Secret Of Monkey Island remake, it can be brought up at any time to nod you in the right direction. Like many adventures from the era, item locations and event triggers are often elusive, and having even the smallest hint makes it a much more approachable experience. It's entirely optional of course, and has been tiered so you aren't spoiled with an entire solution at a single glance. On the rarest of occasions it can be slightly unclear, but then again, it's a guide and not a hand-holding tool.

Surprisingly, any faults lie more with the original product than any adjustments added to the remastering. There is often no shortcut to using a common object, such as an elevator or computer console, which requires a dragging an ID card and double tap to use each and every time. Running on the innovative (for its time) VT engine, characters are free to move between screens at will, making certain key individuals difficult to track down at times. Robert and his wise-cracking sidekick Joey are often slow at walking round the environments, and when anyone crosses paths, it can take around five seconds to release from their stalemate and engage in whatever they were supposed to be doing.

But because of the untampered treatment, these feel more foibles than full-blown faults, and make for a more authentic experience of what the original was actually like. The adventure itself is one that is still incredibly engaging, where its puzzles are logical to solve and contained in a small world that requires limited backtracking. Strong British regional accents and wisecracks at corpses initially appear hamfisted and out-of-place, but actually serve to make the script genuinely amusing, and works well with the black-comedy surroundings of a dystopian world and the desensitised characters that populate it.

The end result is a remake that serves to ease you back into the ageing mechanics and enjoy the story, characters and puzzles without the burdens and frustrations that have been amended through renewed game design philosophy since its release. It has been masterfully preserved and reshaped for the system, making it the most definitive of a classic, and one that certainly deserves a second look after all these years. For just a couple of quid, you'll be hard pressed to find a better adventure anywhere.


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