Mission Critical

1995 Legend Entertainment
Designed by Mike Verdu
Reviewed 2000 December 1

Rating +2 Linearity narrow
Reasonability deductive Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned menu Real-time minor

In the early 22nd century, earth and its interstellar colonies have split into two warring faction: the Luddite U.N. and the pro-technology Alliance, led by the U.S. You are an nameless lieutenant on an Alliance battleship, sent to escort a scientific research ship which is investigating an abandoned alien installation. Your ship is ambushed and defeated by a U.N. ship, but your captain cleverly manages to destroy the U.N. ship, at the cost of the crews of both Alliance ships. Except for you, left behind on the battleship.

Your first task is to stabilise the badly battered ship. The ship is empty, but there are several messages left for you, explaining your mission. Once the ship is limping along and secure, you have to complete the mission by going down to the planet to investigate the alien discovery.

I found the initial premise of the two factions a bit weak, but beyond that this is an excellent science fiction tale. There is a good sense of time and place, and of the history that brought you there. Most of the game consists of repairing and securing the ship, which is just standard adventure problem solving, but you do get snippets of backstory from journals and messages. The plot picks up on the planet, leading to a grander story that I won't spoil here, but there the game goes linear and play is rather easy.

The challenges are mostly the standard inventory based type, a few of which are clever, but most are pedestrian. There are some set-piece puzzles, but they are nicely camouflaged to fit the setting. For example, fixing the ship's reactor involves setting valves on a schematic display that controls the flow of water through pipes and various devices.

An important part of the gameplay is ship-to-ship combat, which is presented to you in the form of a mini-real-time-strategy game. You can adjust the difficulty setting (I think easiest turns control over to the computer and you just win) and you can also control the speed of time, so you can make this as easy or as hard as your tastes and abilities demand.

The graphic presentation is clean and functional, but there's nothing to get excited over. The interface is simple, yet flexible, with a context sensitive menu of actions available for specific objects. There's also a bit of actor video, not badly done but the script is pretty clichéd at those points. The space combat has a simple interface, yet it allows enough freedom to make for a good game.

This is a solid game. The story is good, but it lacks some spark, failing to capture the imagination until too late into the game. If you're not interested in the space combat sub-game, the other challenges might seem a bit too easy, and lacking in creativity.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.