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About the Story
An explosion rattles the Aegis mining station and the oxygen tanks are leaking. Who gets the remaining oxygen and who will perish? The choice is up to you, a lowly technician trapped in an access conduit.
12th Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)
Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2010 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The premise of Oxygen is simple - no tricks, few puzzles, mostly choices. You, a lowly technician, have the unenviable task of deciding who on board the Aegis mining station will get oxygen from the slowly leaking tanks.
This is a resource management game in which you decide how oxygen supplies on a spaceship are to be diverted. You have three moves each time to decide. Tension comes from the fact that the ship is, literally, divided: striking miners on one side, and "the establishment" - the captain and the rest of the crew - on the other.
The initial section was very fiddly for me, because I have lots of trouble visualising mechanical solutions, so I followed the walkthrough for that. The bulk of the story is mechanically much simpler, though.
Oxygen's story is largely linear, with just a few major branches; so far, none of the endings I've found are exactly happy. Your position as a tech notwithstanding, you ultimately must choose where you stand - with the miners or with the leadership - and either results in the destruction of the other (or both). It was heartening to see the PC change from lazy and over-ambitious to actually taking a stand.
Oxygen reminded me of Fragile Shells: both are set in a spaceship, with mechanical puzzles. Fragile Shells is a bit more focused on story and characters, while Oxygen, more on the PC's current relationship with his other crewmates and resource management.
This game was intimidating before I played it, but I was able to complete it to 3-4 endings before going to the walkthrough for the best ending.
You are in a jeffries tube in a ship that had an explosion. Your job is to get systems working and then transfer oxygen to various parts of the ship, deciding who should get what.
The game has an in-game reference manual that is helpful on several occasions. There is also an NPC whom you can converse with after some work (as the ABOUT section of the game hints).
I've had an opinion recently that hard puzzles aren't as fun as puzzles that make you feel smart. Even though I didn't get the best ending on my own, getting any ending at all made me feel smart. I recommend the game for that reason.
It is not spoilery to tell you this first bit, because the game cuts to the chase on this with the first move and, let's face it, the title itself is spoilery. I won't go into the political particulars, but I'm on a space station, and there's been an explosion, and the systems are having trouble coming back on line, and I'm a tech. I gotta make things right.
I generally avoid science fiction at all costs, the two exceptions being when ClubFloyd is playing some scifi, the other exception being when a game comes up in my comp queue. So I heaved a heavy sigh as I began the game and the plot became clear. Then I started having a few traumatic Infocom Suspended flashbacks. Then I thought to myself, "I'll play a few turns, write it off as crap, then move on to something that hopefully involves an orc looking for a pig or someone trying to finish their dissertation."
But then Sokal had to be all polished and stuff, and I couldn't write it off as crap. I had to keep playing! Ultimately, the game is less about the science fiction and more about ethical choices, morality, politics, selfishness and selflessness, that sort of thing. It's not exactly terribly deep in those regards, but it's not a very long game and it's difficult to delve into such things in detail in a game of this length.
But I would nevertheless like to point out that it is still super swaddled in scifi gift-wrap with a giant scifi bow on top!
So if science fiction is your thang, you might like this. It is not my thang, but I feel bad holding that against the game. It's not Sokal's fault I really don't like scifi! So I added a point to my score to compensate for that.
Short and fairly easy to play, multiple endings. Seems like it could have benefitted from a WAIT FOR 6 TURNS command (or something similar), and a couple of other verbs that were suggested in the prose but not actually functional (REMOVE X from Y comes to mind), but it did anticipate some non-standard things that I tried to do. Only a couple of typographical flubs. It does a good job of backstory, character motivation, and is clever with its (optional) use of sound without being annoying (thank you, Sokal, for asking me if I had sound enabled... I took that as a warning; prior games by other people have just scared the poo out of me by not asking first, and I didn't really like that very much).
So, I gave this a 4 (it would have been a 3, but I bumped it up one to make up for my scifi allergy).
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