The Starship Damrey is a simple adventure game on the 3DS eShop. No tutorials. No explanations. No instructions. Waking up in a sleep capsule on a dark, lifeless spaceship with what appears to be a case of amnesia, you are tasked with activating and maneuvering a robot throughout the ship for reasons that aren’t immediately clear.
The game itself is a first-person adventure game in which you need to solve simple puzzles by figuring out what you need to do and doing them. From the locked sleep tube, you can check your status and activate a robot to control (which is almost always the same robot). When in robot mode, you can move with the D-Pad (forward and back moves forward and back and left and right turn in either direction) and analyze, push, pull, and carry objects by clicking on them. Although the puzzles can make you think, the game controls are so simple and traditional that you won’t constantly be playing with your surroundings and the buttons to figure out what’s going on.
As the game revolves around you figuring out who you are and what happened to the crew of this once lively ship (and now desolate in a manner akin to the Aliens franchise), you must navigate your way around the ship as this robot by collecting the right things and manipulating the environment the right way. One time over the course of the game, you may need to concoct a hot oil mixture to cause a hostile robot to malfunction, and another time you may need to gut a robot for its upgrade so you can explore the dark vents. It’s extremely compelling to keep pushing forward despite not knowing what you’re doing, only in the hopes to reach the “inconceivable truth” the game promises at the very end.
The game’s compelling nature, however, is no doubt assisted by the effective storytelling. The Starship Damrey drip feeds the story over the three-hour experience, by providing small insights as to what happened to the once-alive crew and why you are where you are through things like lab notes and journal entries. The story, thankfully, is quite coherent and easy-to-understand if you pay attention, which is much appreciated. Beyond that, the game offers a series of clever twists and a fantastic ending.
Despite the game’s competence, it never reaches those promises of a totally old-school adventure game. Some situations are great (like the extremely clever introduction), but the game is so deliberately simple (even with its challenge) that you don’t even need instructions if you have some understanding of how this kind of game works. It’s still overall a great time and a decent challenge, but there won’t ever be a situation where you NEED a pen and paper to jot down notes.
The star of the show here has got to be the presentation. While the graphics are fine, the lighting and sound are extremely effective. Combining a quiet, dark atmosphere with subtle sound effects for ambience, the game grows to be extremely immersive despite a short length.
And, despite the fact that the game never quite fulfills its promise of a no-instruction classic adventure game, The Starship Damrey is a very well-paced, thoughtful adventure game that deserves the time of anyone with a 3DS and a modicum of interest.