by David Mear


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Simple but Appealing Science Fiction, April 14, 2009
by C.E.J. Pacian (England)

Although there are plenty of science fiction and fantasy IF games out there, the actual number of games that try to come up with even a vaguely realistic depiction of ordinary people working in space is pretty small. Most settle neatly into the Hitchhikers or Star Trek niches, where the realities of space flight are made light of or ignored, and the settings are imaginary and fantastical. That's not to say that Rockrider is going to win any awards for services to hard science fiction, but it is refreshing to find a game, small as it may be, about someone orbiting Jupiter and worrying about airlocks, micrometeoroids and getting paid.

But, although it may be small, Rockrider still suffers - just a little - from lack of testing. Output like, 'You can't, since the door is in the way.' is a personal bugbear of mine, but I think even the most avowed door-opener is likely to be momentarily stumped by 'You are unable to descend by the inner airlock hatch.' It means the same thing - namely that your character has a strange mental block about opening doors - but in this case is phrased in a way that makes the very simple reason your passage is barred seem rather opaque. The game's second puzzle also took more than a little poking and prodding for me to figure out. (Spoiler - click to show)Being told that a leak is coming from behind something implies LOOK BEHIND to most IF players, although in this case, OPEN is the required verb. I'd also prefer it if the airlock was operated by a button rather than requiring the player to guess (with a little prompting) the verbs 'pressurise' and 'depressurise' (although it's nice that there are a few implicit actions when it comes to managing the inner and outer doors).

Structurally there are another few hiccups - probably symptomatic of being a first game for a month-long competition. We start the story in a dream sequence, something I rarely care for in static fiction, and which doesn't work any better here. In IF, the start of the game is the last place you want this sort of thing - a substantial number of players may well quit before they realise that the incoherence of these initial events is intentional. And then there's the ending, which is somewhat abrupt and open to astronomical nit-picking.

None of this is game-breaking though, and command phrasing aside, all the cool gadgets and spaceship parts on display here are implemented with satisfying solidity. If you're the kind of person who likes the idea of throwing on an EVA suit to check their spaceship for damage, four months away from home, then this is well worth a go.

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