“This game contains no tutorials or explanations. Part of the experience is to discover things yourself.” So begins The Starship Damrey, the latest “Guild” title on the 3DS eShop from Level 5. Damrey is helmed by Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Akibo, previously responsible for “Night of the Sickle Weasels,” a famous (in Japan) horror sound novel on the Super Famicom.
Saying much of anything about the plot of the game would spoil the point, but I will say that it isn’t kidding when it says it contains no explanations. You are cast into the world of the game with no introduction, no controls, nothing. It’s up to you entirely to figure things out. Damrey makes excellent use of an Alien-esque isolated, haunting hard sci-fi setting to crank the atmospheric tension up to an intense level. You’re on a space ship, something is wrong, and you need to survive. You may even find out what in the world is going on in the process.
You spend the majority of the game controlling a robot from a remote location, and exploration more or less takes the form of a point-and-click adventure. The point of view is first-person, and the dark, uniform colors of the completely inorganic ship give the game a look that is almost reminiscent of old-school dungeon crawlers. Most of the doors are locked, and you must find clues and solutions to puzzles to unlock doors and progress through the short, but effective story. None of the puzzles are more demanding than finding the right thing to click on, but they accomplish the important thing; being interactive pieces of the narrative that give you a tangible way of filling in the holes yourself instead of just reading text.
If I were to pinpoint any issues I have with Damrey, I would say that the controls are a little awkward. They make sense within the world of the game, but first-person Resident Evil-style tank controls just don’t make for a smooth experience. Navigating the hallways is a slow and awkward experience, especially since getting through certain sections of rooms and into doorways requires an annoying bit of precision that you just aren’t really capable of. You also have to stop moving and go into a separate looking mode to examine your surroundings, and you have to be right on top of whatever you want to look at lest your scanner not be able to recognize it. Admittedly, not being able to run around freely does add to the atmosphere in a way.
Other than that, The Starship Damrey wants to tell a story and doesn’t waste much time doing anything but. It is a short game with very little in the way of extras, but make sure to do everything you possibly can to fill in all the holes. You’ll only spend a few hours on this one, but the intrigue lasts well beyond that.
Pros: Withholds information in a way that creates an intense atmospheric environment
Cons: Awkward controls