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About the Story
Stranded in deep space after running out of fuel, you luck upon a nearby space station. When you get there, though, the place is abandoned, and strange things seem to have been happening lately. And if you can make your way off the station and reach the planet below, that's when things get really strange.
You are a deep space explorer in distress who docks on an abandoned space station seeking rescue. Structurally, DSD is split into two parts - the first one taking place in the station itself, and the second - on the planet the station is orbiting around. The first part has a nice (albeit non-exceptional by modern standards) setting with not-too-hard puzzles (I'd got the feeling they were intended as appetizers for the next part). The second section of the game effectively is a sketchily implemented bunch of puzzles; the puzzles themselves, however, are of top quality - very elaborate, logical, fun to solve, and immensely satisfying.
The development process for DSD has been described by Mike Roberts in his TADS manual, and I agree with him in that the entire game reflects its history. I'd especially recommend it to beginning IF-authors, since it shows pretty clearly that even a great authoring talent, and excellent programming skills won't help you if you don't plan your work thoroughly.
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
The part of the game on the space station is good, with quite a bit of atmospheric details and generally good puzzles. But down at the planet things are less convincing. Everything is deserted, but no real reason for this is given. Several of the puzzles here are also very time-consuming and tedious. Among these puzzles are the game's two infamous mazes.
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Deep Space Drifter is a science fiction tale which should appeal to all adventure fans who enjoy a real challenge and appreciate well written text and cleverly constructed, original puzzles spiced with just the right touch of humour. To have produced such a work as well as the TADS utility with which it was implemented is worthy of the highest praise. With a bit of fine tuning and, of course, some lavish product packaging, Deep Space Drifter could very nearly pass for an Infocom title of the mid '80s, something like a Planetfall/Starcross hybrid. Need I say more? (Neil Shipman)
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I found the start of DSD very good indeed and was looking forward to more of the same once I reached the planet. The mazes however spoil this, for me anyway. I do not object to the odd maze, I even enjoy small to middling sized ones - however twisty amd turny. The 130 location jobby here though could easily have been done in at the most half the size. The second 'maze' was the last straw after this although I do admire the idea immensely. (Richard Hunt)
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Phew! Someone heard you! When adrift in interplanetary space, chances are slim that anybody would hear your distress signal in time. You received the coordinates, you probably have just enough juice left in the fuel cell. So yeah, very fortunate to be underway to that big... distant... abandoned... space station that is now being pelted with debris... and fired upon by a giant laser from the planet's surface...
Hmmm... Maybe not that fortunate, but you either dock here or die in your broken down spacecraft.
The space station in Deep Space Drifter is a compact and effective puzzle-space. A small number of rooms to explore, each with a clear function. Enough objects lying around to get a notion of the backstory and aid in some nifty puzzles. And there's a robot! The environment is sparsely but adequately described, and every few turns the narrative voice informs you that the station is shaking around you as a result of an explosion or an impact. While these messages help with the sense of being in a larger and quite vulnerable place, they do become repetitive to the point where you just skip them.
I dropped my inventory a lot in this part of the game. And not because I typed DROP a lot. I didn't methodically investigate, so I don't really know if it's a bug, if you lose your inventory each time the station gets hit, or if there are an inordinate amount of actions that implicitly DROP ALL (SIT does this for sure), or a combination of all the above. What I do know is that I often arrived at my destination ready to tackle an obstacle only to find that I was empty-handed. That involved some backtracking.
Since the space station is abandoned and empty, just refueling your own spaceship won't work. So, in the next part, you go down to the planetary surface. The game from this point on is very uneven.
I loved zipping around the underground tunnels in the shuttlecar (yes...) There are two very satisfying puzzles. There are also two very large mazes. And that's a pity. I thought both mazes had a really good concept that was drawn out far into tedium and boredom. I frankly didn't care anymore and went with the walkthrough. The concept could have been kept intact, and the mazes shrunk down into 10 room navigational/timing puzzles that would have been more engaging.
Some good puzzles, some good fun, but ultimately not enough.