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About the Story
A thief on the run from the galactic police finds refuge on an abandoned spaceship. A lonely ship AI finds unexpected company.
Explore the ship, solve puzzles, uncover mysteries, and befriend an AI who probably isn't trying to kill you.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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When I saw Space Oddysey 2001 for the first time (and the times after that, now I come to think of it...) HAL scared the brains out of me. The calm, collected voice-pattern, the ruthless efficiency, the cold determination...
Nah, I like his sister a lot more. Ok, she sounds at least as disturbing as her big brother, but at least I can picture myself having a fun night on the town with her.
(For no reason other than my own imagination, I perceived SOLIS as female.)
SOLIS welcomes you as you stumble onto her decks, on the run for the space police because... Well, you're a thief. Plain and simple. And your FTL-jump thingamajig had a small hiccup so you ended up here with a lonely AI in an abandoned spaceship.
Contrary to HAL, SOLIS does have a distinctly, erm... outgoing personality. In fact, sometimes she sounds like her personality is a bit too much for her to handle. Like it's growing out of her circuits, fizzing and crackling...
The more I engaged with SOLIS, the more it became clear that there were hidden depths underneath her humorous façade. As if she was using robotic indifference, AI-superiority and sarcasm as a shield from the utter desolation of her situation and from traumatic aspects within herself.
SOLIS is easily one of my dearest NPCs ever. Conversing with her, getting to know her was a great joy.
In comparison, the PC comes close to an empty shell at first. Sure, we get a bit of background to establish we're a thief but not a nasty one, but for the rest, the protagonist is a mask for the player. During the course of the game however, and especially through communicating with SOLIS, the player has ample choice to characterize the PC. I personally went for friendly pitbull (be nice if possible but bite down on any questions the NPC seems reluctant to talk about).
In fact, the entire game is well suited to this sort of featureless protagonist. At its core,A Long Way to the Nearest Star is a very old school adventure. Find codes and tools to solve clever puzzles and unlock previously inaccessible regions of the spaceship. While the obstacles are mostly engaging enough to make this fun in its own right, the gradually unveiling of the backstory is the real reward.
Pretty standard for an old school text adventure. But it's implemented in Twine. The biggest consequence of this is that the level of interaction with the game-world is slightly higher order, less hands-on. Compared to a parser, the player has not nearly as much freedom to juggle the inventory and throw every imaginable verb at the poor objects. Instead of a compass, there are room-connections in unspecified directions. This didn't keep me from drawing a map.
Still, even though the player is clicking to advance through the game, the focus is very much on which actions to undertake, as opposed to navigating a branching narrative space. The choice format makes the conversations flow naturally. Many options differ only in tone, serving to characterize the protagonist. There are choices that can significantly influence SOLIS attitude and behaviour too. These, together with some PC actions during the game can lead to diverse endings.
I liked how the UI, with its boxed and highlighted options, mirrored my mental image of the screens and terminals the protagonist is confronted with throughout the game. For those who might find this too intrusive, the style is customizable in the gear-menu.
A polished and exciting science fiction game. Recommended.
This is a Twine game with a significant world model. In it, you explore a ship you've crashlanded on which is empty except for an AI named SOLIS.
There are a lot of areas to explore, and you have both an inventory and notes of all important information.
It has puzzles that are honestly complex and can be fairly difficult. The inventory allows for quadratic complexity: you have to be in the right room, and use the right item.
I enjoyed the AI, and felt an attachment to them. The nice thing about IF containing AIs is that the AIs exist in reality, in a sense; the organic characters are just described in words, nothing like their 'true' selves, but the AIs are supposed to be code masquerading as a person and that's what they actually are: code in Twine or Ink or Inform that takes your inputs and reacts to you. It's weird to think about.
Anyway, the game is fairly non-linear and has multiple endings and paths to victory. I think a large chunk of content is the same in each walkthrough, especially conversation, but you can replay those parts with different attitudes.
Navigating back and forth got a bit tedious by the end, but fortunately a new mechanic gets introduced that lets you 'warp' around ((Spoiler - click to show)following the robot).
Overall, I really enjoyed this polished game.
In A Long Way to the Nearest Star, you play as a criminal on the run after an almost unsuccessful heist. You escaped with the goods but damaged your spacecraft along the way, forcing you to find a place to hide and make repairs. Luckily, you stumble across a seemingly abandoned research vessel that may solve your predicament.
After a brief intro, the gameplay begins in the landing bay of the mysterious ship where you discover that you are not alone. Your presence caught the attention of the ship’s AI, Solis, who communicates through terminal screens placed throughout the ship. Solis is eager to help but clearly guarded about the circumstances surrounding its own ship. The player is reliant on Solis to help them navigate the ship but is also compelled to find ways to sneak around the system.
The story and characters are worth about three stars, but the overall game gets four because of its puzzles and how those puzzles are implemented in a choice-based format. This is a puzzle-intensive Twine game with free range of movement. You have access to a fairly large ship, and the game lets you wander through it almost like you would if it were a parser game. This approach may appeal to some players. Some of the gameplay mechanics are quite clever. I especially liked how the game allows you to program the janitor bot to go to a location and then automatically follow it. Useful for puzzles while reducing travel time.
There is a lot of in-game guidance. In your inventory is a notes section giving you an overview of what you have learned, and if you take a break in your own ship the game gives you some suggestions of what to do. The author also has hints cleverly formatted into a Twine piece included separately with the game. All of this was nicely done, and I felt it was worth a mention.
The author gets some bonus points for worldbuilding. The terminal in the research lab allows you to look up planets in a digital encyclopedia. When the game ends, you are presented with the statistics of your playthrough which includes how many planets you researched. That alone was enough for me to replay the game just to comb through to find any planet names that I could punch into the encyclopedia. In case you are interested, I found 11 planet names.
The story retains a suspenseful and intriguing quality. The gist (I do not consider this part to be a spoiler since we know this at the start of the gameplay) is that there was a collision with the ship that caused toxic gas to enter the ship, killing everyone onboard. We learn this from Solis, (Spoiler - click to show) but the player knows right away that Solis is not being entirely truthful. It is not a matter of discovering whether Solis is hiding something. It is a matter of finding what it is hiding. Entering the medical bay was kind of chilling. On top of that, it has six endings which encourage replays.
At the end of the game there is this abrupt plot twist that it failed to pull off. This sudden twist, mega spoilers by the way, occurs (Spoiler - click to show) when you learn that Berthold was behind it all. It turns out Solis did not kill Trill, but Berthold did and made Solis think otherwise. That part had some decent backing. But then there is ambiguous explanation on the other ways Berthold potentially interfered, followed by an avalanche of speculation of why he attempted sabotage. You show Solis the captain’s real data pad, and the game rushes to explain everything in one swoop. Yet, it does not even clarify everything. The game says, yeah, Solis gassed the crew, but it also did not gas the crew. Any uncertainties are blamed on glitches. It seemed flimsy in comparison to the rest of the story which had been carefully constructed.
The player can choose the protagonist’s (fake) name and their brief cover story, but otherwise the game is hesitant to give out details about the protagonist since they are on the run. You can still get to know the PC in subtle ways, such as reprogramming the food options in food synthesizer and eat them. This gives you a look into the protagonist’s previous experiences. Some are quite interesting.
I did not particularly care about the characters which surprised me (This game is almost NPC-less. By "characters" I mean Solis, the protagonist, and the janitor bot. Okay, the janitor bot was nice). If anything, I was more interested in the crew (Spoiler - click to show) which is a shame since they are dead. We only get to know them through video recordings and see their corpses in the medical bay. They seemed to be a unique blend of species and cultures.
AI characters can be a lot of fun regardless of if they are villainous or friendly. I like it when such characters engage with the player, and Solis does just that. But for some reason, Solis did not have much of an impact on me. I find it hard to pinpoint why.
Despite the (Spoiler - click to show) ominous feeling we get from the “account” of what happened to the crew, Solis does seem genuinely interested about the player. The early gameplay has some cliché “gee, hello there, organic life form,” banter that stretches on a bit. Other times the exchange is more meaningful. I like how discussions tend to incorporate mentions of planets or civilizations that give you a broader sense of the story’s world.
Still, the character lacked in dimension. Remember how I said the game gives you a statistical report of your playthrough? It includes Solis' attitude towards the player which I thought was interesting because it made me reevaluate some of my choices to see how they influenced interactions.
Generally, the game uses a black screen and links clearly indicated with light grey rounded boxes. This basic look is offset by some stylization that adds some flair.
For Solis’ dialog, visuals are used to create the impression of looking at a terminal screen, featuring a rounded black textbox with a thick border and green text. This was a simple but effective look. Similarly, when it comes to reading data pads the game puts the text in colour-tinted boxes with rounded corners to simulate the feel of reading off a tablet. All of this was creative and eye-catching.
Overall, it is a quality game. It was not as potent as I expected, but the gameplay is solid and will likely be appreciated by players. This would be a good choice if you are someone who likes Twine games with a little more technicality because it has plenty of puzzles and freedom of movement to interact with the setting. Its IFComp submission says that its playtime is about two hours which is about accurate. Give it a shot.
If you enjoyed A Long Way to the Nearest Star, you may like Lux, another puzzle intensive sci-fi Twine game where the player heavily relies on the guidance of a mainframe AI as they navigate a nearly NCP-less setting in the aftermath of an unknown disaster. It is also an IFComp game from a few years back.
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