Classic adventure games are making a big comeback as of late, and the iPhone is starting to be a big part of that. We've seen everything from The Secret of Monkey Island to Myst make the jump to Apple's popular portable.Now, courtesy of Revolution Software, the timeless dystopian adventure Beneath a Steel Sky has been reborn on the iPhone as Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered.But does it hold up after 15 years out of the limelight, or has this grim look at the future aged a little too much?
Beneath a Steel Sky is a point-and-click adventure that tells the tale of Robert Foster, a child that was abandoned in the Australian wilderness and raised by tribesmen.As the game begins, Foster has grown into a man.Security Services from the Union City, a massive towering metropolis of technology, are trying to kidnap Foster – the boy lost in the wild – and bring him home.Escaping their clutches it's up to Foster and his smart-aleck robot pal Joey to unravel the mystery of who he is and why they wanted to bring him back in the first place.
Originally created back in 1994, the story and humor in Beneath a Steel Sky clearly show some influence of the popular LucasArts games that predated its release.Despite being produced by a competing developer, there's definitely a similar vibe here that LucasArts veterans will whole-heartedly enjoy.Your robot pal Joey, for example, is always talking down to you and annoyed at the whole situation.There are running gags strewn throughout – everytime someone asks Foster who he is and what he's doing there he just says “routine inspection,” and the reactions from folks get funnier and funnier as the game goes on.
A lot of people credit the cyberpunk dystopian future vibe in Beneath a Steel Sky to an influence from works like Blade Runner or the writings of William Gibson, but in my mind this game is more of a parody of these dystopias than it is an homage.If anything, Beneath a Steel Sky could best be compared to Terry Gilliam's film Brazil.There's a certain ridiculousness and playful humour to both the world and all its inhabitants.Revolution Studios is a British development house, and as such the game is rife with a uniquely British sense of humor.
But if the tongue-in-cheek, slightly silly humor of Beneath a Steel Sky serves as the game's ying, the staunch, dark, astoundingly gorgeous visual art serves as its yang.The backgrounds and cut scenes for Beneath a Steel Sky were all created by comic book legend Dave Gibbons.Having worked on landmark runs of Green Lantern and Doctor Who — and creating Watchmen with Alan Moore — Gibbons pencils are instantly recognizable to any comics veteran.Gibbons is no slouch when it comes to creating a dystopian future, and the backgrounds and environments shown in Beneath a Steel Sky easily rival his best work.
The cut scenes created by Gibbons used to unfold as comics panels, but in this iPhone remaster the developers took a cue from a current trend in comic books and converted them to motion comics.Motion comics take still images from classic comic books, break them apart to create a faux-3D experience, and show characters moving around the environment while the words of the comic are read as narration.It's akin to watching a puppet show with cardboard cut-outs.Coincidentally it's Gibbons own work with Watchmen that gave birth to this trend, with the Watchmen motion comic quickly rising to the top of the iTunes Video charts earlier this year.
While the remaster includes a number of tweaks not found in the original release, like a hints system, improved sound and a fairly successful touch screen control system, it's Gibbons work that has really been given the biggest shot in the arm.Re-tooling the cut scenes means the comic-style presentation has the opportunity to breathe new life in a digital world.The art style not only holds up – it pops and sucks you in like any good comic should.
The gameplay holds up just as well as the titles other components, offering up some unique and fun puzzles that are never too difficult yet never without challenge.The controls have been streamlined to make this a perfect fit for the iPhone.Holding your finger in an area will highlight all of the objects you can interact with.Select one, and some options will pop up above it, like “examine” or “interact.”It's simple, intuitive, and a huge improvement over past iPhone attempts at adventure controls.
while all the tweaks succeed in making this a better product than what has come before, it can't be ignored that the original Beneath a Steel Sky is still available as a free download for PC users courtesy of GOG.com.We loved all of the little additions made in the remastered iPhone edition, but at the end of the day no one change is so drastic that it makes playing this new version any greater an experience than playing the original.
In terms of adventure games on the iPhone, Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered could be the best offering we've seen to date.Clocking in at more than 10 hours of playtime, you're going to get more than your money's worth in this release.It's only real competition is itself.If you'd rather enjoy a lengthy adventure game from the comfort of your PC rather than the convenience of your pocket, it would be hard to justify grabbing this game at any price.Still – for those of you adventurous enough to take your adventures on the go, Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered is an absolute must buy.