Superluminal Vagrant Twin

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Science Fiction
2016

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Number of Reviews: 14
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mysterious exploration that encourages outside-the-box thinking, July 11, 2024

Easily one of the most engaging beginnings to an IF piece. It gets you right onto the journey of planetary exploration/hopping from the get-go and dispenses with some of the typical parser commands, to keep things moving and feeling streamlined. I.e., 'Look' is still a very important action, but it is done away with for quite a few elements within the game. The descriptions are brief but poetic and often haunting - the planets (or remnants of them) are captivating to visit and some are quite tricky to find, but you have plenty of clues and help, and there's more than one way to get somewhere. There's a sense of danger and humor throughout. I wound up completing all possible quests (which you probably don't have to, but it was doable and led to a more satisfying finish for me.) Some of these quests involved bounty hunting and I questioned the morality of a few of them, whereas others were more clear-cut in being 'bad guys'. I got stuck on one puzzle and then felt a little silly when I realized I was overlooking a very....obvious....familiar....set of clues I could follow. I'll avoid spoilers.

Overall, I definitely recommend!

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Poetic, hyper-episodic space saga, April 11, 2023
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

The main narrative tension driving this game is a quest to free your titular vagrant twin from cryo sleep after they've been abducted by some unsavory types. The task is simple but the road is arduous as you then proceed to earn enough credits to free your twin, exploring a vast and varied intergalactic environment in the process. It's both the elemental story -- rescue your family from malevolent forces -- and the enormous scope of the world in which this story is set that give this game the feel of a sci-fi epic poem.

As is the case for many epic poems, the structure of Superluminal is episodic and the rhythm is that of a melodious and mnemonic repetition. The player character traverses numerous worlds (several dozen in my case and likely more left unexplored!), interacting with a diverse cast of characters coming from a wide range of socioeconomic situations and cultural backgrounds to buy, sell, and trade your way up to the requisite 500k credits. Each world to visit is evocatively described in just a scant few words and, similarly, every character is brought to life with a terse, smartly composed description. Truly, reading the description of each new planet brought me such great joy -- to take one example, at random, "slender megastructures rise gleaming from the silvery continents below, arcing over oceans" -- and I was heartened to re-encounter familiar descriptions as I revisited planets, akin to a Homeric bard repeating "wine-dark sea" for the umpteenth time.

The game itself is also very compelling. There's a bit of a puzzle trying to match the odds and ends that you're able to buy off inhabitants on one planet to the needs and wants of inhabitants on other scattered planets. Each of these matches is something of a hyper-episode in the larger story. The pared down mechanics (certain verbs common to IF games are stripped out, and there were no instances that I ran into of needing to play 'guess the verb' to advance) make the game easy to jump into, even for a newcomer to the genre, while the variety of ways to earn credits keeps the game interesting. The main quest can be completed relatively quickly (Spoiler - click to show)as there's a large but fairly easy job that will earn the player character sufficient credits to free their twin, but this is only a small portion of the joy of this game. As with many epics, the pleasure is not in summarizing the main story line but luxuriating in the encyclopedic details of a fully-realized world. This is a poetically charged reference book -- the highest compliment coming from someone who adores reference works!

Superluminal achieves one of the finest balancing acts between the literary and game elements that make the best interactive fiction so compelling. This is an epic poem that you are play as well as read.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Tremendous fun, December 27, 2021

I had more fun playing this game than almost any other IF title I can remember. The game is in some ways stripped to its bare bones: most planets are a single location; most characters have only a single piece of dialogue; you cannot examine anything. All of this makes actually playing the game a lot pleasanter than you'd think. No need to keep on examining, for example - the information you need is all there already. Interactions are limited to talking to people, taking, selling, or buying objects, and one or two other rarely-used actions.

The travel system in this game is rather brilliant. You need only "jump" (or "go") to any planet whose name you know. New locations are learned simply by talking to characters. There are surprisingly many of them, all described tersely yet very evocatively, with considerable imagination.

Achieving the main goal isn't tremendously hard, but scoring all of the achievements takes a lot more exploration and ingenuity. Despite its claim to shallowness, this game is extraordinarily immersive, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
good fun, November 29, 2021

good depth and keeps you entertained and has a bit of grind. definitely worth checking out

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Explore the skies of an alien galaxy, October 28, 2021

This text-based game allows players to explore on their own terms, chasing scraps of flavor text across intergalactic thoroughfares. The writing is consistent, entertaining, and guides the player to objectives without adhering to a linear plot. If you're interested in finding your own place among the stars, ready to become another hopeless nobody floating among the nebulae, give this game a go.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun space simulator, limited puzzles, October 25, 2021
by mg51
Related reviews: four stars, resource management

This game was fun in a way that's common with some simple simulation-type games, but it wasn't typical for IF. It involved a lot of simple exploration, where speaking with different characters introduces you to new places you can visit. A lot of the game involves finding methods to earn money and simple resource management (rocket fuel). While it was enjoyable to play casually, it probably won't scratch your typical interactive fiction itch.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Jump to Conclusion, July 29, 2018
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

In Superluminal Vagrant Twin, you explore the galaxy as you attempt to collect enough cash to rescue your twin. The game's main selling point is the sheer size of the galaxy: by the end of the game, I had visited no fewer than 44 planets, and I think I may have missed out on a few, since I didn't seem to have the necessary objects to complete absolutely every side quest. In order to make this size manageable, the planets are implemented very lightly: there's just a few things you can interact with, and those interactions are mostly restricted to "talk", "take", "buy", and "sell". Even the "examine" verb has been disabled. This gives the game its strange feel of being both extremely limited (at any location you can just do a few things) and extremely expansive (from each planet, you can jump to every single planet you have discovered, and you keep discovering more).

We have, then, a game that is sharply focused on a few activities, but gives us a lot of freedom in when and whether we engage in them. First, we explore. Exploration is simple -- you just "jump" to a planet, although you'll have to learn the name of the planet first. Or you have to guess the name, something that is by no means impossible and got me to quite a number of planets I would not otherwise have encountered. (A nice reward for out-of-the-box thinking that the game's restricted verb list otherwise cannot provide for. Unfortunately, you cannot "jump to Conclusion", although the game does acknowledge the command.) At those planets, you buy or sell exotic goods, upgrade yourself and your ship, restock on fuel, arrest some criminals, deliver some packages, and perhaps learn about one or two other planets. As you proceed, you get a good understanding of the universe around you, although the complicated social and political arrangements never become entirely clear. Great fun; and I suspect the game has the exact right length to maintain a sense of wonder without becoming tedious.

The game this reminded me of most is Sunless Sea, which also features journeys from port to port and very limited, text-based interactions when you arrive. But Superluminal Vagrant Twin is smaller, faster, less impenetrable, and a lot friendlier. Highly recommended.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Great atmosphere, breezy play, April 11, 2017

Loved the game, which had excellent writing and world-building, as well as a refreshingly different focus on which commands propel it forwards. Not examining objects and merely talking rather than talking about things with NPCs ensures a nice and breezy pace, though it should be said that the player doesn't have much control about how the plot of the game will unfold. But player autonomy isn't really the point of the fast-paced, low-difficulty research management sim that is Superluminal Vagrant Twin, anyway, and that's not a bad thing - rather, the focus is on exploration and discovery. The true strength of this game is its fresh and creative setting. I had a wonderful time navigating its strange, surprising galaxy, having been tossed in media res into the aftermath of a war that is never fully explained and whose factions don't even begin to map onto our current human modes of being. Marvelous!

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A True Space Captain, February 14, 2017
by streever (America)

"So I've made a reasonably large (broad but shallow is how I'd put it) parser game set in space."

This expectation-lowering premise introduction kicks off one of the best RPG-style works of Interactive Fiction I've ever read. The author uses the term "shallow", but I'd say minimalist; dozens of characters, locations, and alien races are described in terse, pared-back prose. These well-written and plotted scenes are engaging and evocative, pulling the reader into a richly imaginative world.

The UI/UX can sometimes be clunky if only because the reader expects more--more commands, more fiddly-bits, more fussing--but the work on the whole is much stronger for paring back the parser functions to the bare minimum. This would be an incredible introductory work to bring a mainstream gamer into Interactive Fiction.

I love the dialogue, the settings, the environment, and the atmosphere. I love the way the game sets the tone and personality of the protagonist by placing you squarely in such a difficult situation. The missions, quests, and interactions all reinforce this central narrative of a scrappy and plucky pilot about to turn their luck around.

Don't stress too much about perfect completion: the game lets you continue when you finish the main story, to accomplish the side quests and achievements. I highly recommend this genre-crossing experimental work to anyone, with no caveats or warnings. It's really excellent.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Fast-paced space adventure, February 14, 2017

While there are obvious parallels to Space trading RPGs such as Sundog: Frozen Legacy and Elite, this game reminded me most of Captain Blood on the Atari ST. Which was a space adventure in which, like in this game, the focus is fly around the galaxy, talk to various aliens and that way discover new destinations while furthering the plot.

The trading part consists of speaking with characters and figuring out who will buy what. There is no time at which it is necessary to get an Excel sheet out to find where your cargo of pan-galactic pork bellies will sell for marginally more. I'm glad of that, as I don't have the patience for that anymore.

I enjoyed this game a lot, I was skeptical in the beginning but this works very well as an IF game: no need to eXamine everything - everything you need to know is in descriptions, or discovered by talking, no need to walk in compass directions - just tell your ship where to go. Though I normally enjoy longer descriptions, the short and business-like dialog fits with the atmosphere.

All in all this is a great game, I hope there will be a sequel.

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