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Starship Titanic

Entry updated 30 November 2020. Tagged: Game.

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Videogame (1998). The Digital Village. Designed by Douglas Adams, Adam Shaikh, Emma Westecott. Platforms: Win (1998); Mac (1999).

Starship Titanic is a graphical Adventure which uses a first person view similar to that of Obsidian (1996) or The Journeyman Project (1993). As in those games, the player must move from one predefined node in space to another, and their ability to interact with the physical environment is strictly limited. Starship Titanic, however, also draws heavily on the tradition of text Adventure design exemplified by such works as Planetfall (1982) and Adams' own The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), both in its tone of sometimes painful obscurity and in its use of a text parser (see Adventures) to enable conversation between the player and computer controlled characters.

The game begins with a markedly metafictional moment; the player finds themselves in their suburban home, where they must locate a copy of Starship Titanic and load it into their computer. As soon as this has been done, the eponymous Starship crashes into their house, and the player is shanghaied by the ship's Robot crew to perform emergency repairs on their sabotaged artificial intelligences (see AI). Such flourishes bring to mind Adams's written work, and the game contains many isolated sequences which are as amusing as anything in his novels. The plot, however, is remarkably predictable, many of the puzzles seem arbitrary, and technical limitations mean that the frequent conversations are often frustrating. While Starship Titanic has many excellent parts – including impressive art deco visuals and numerous moments of genuine hilarity – the whole is, perhaps, less than their sum.

Related works: A TieDouglas Adams' Starship Titanic (1997), by Terry Jones – was published based on the game, with a rather more developed plot. [NT]


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