Games Gazette Logo

Made with UNITY DOWNWARD SPIRAL:HORUS STATION is a fun third-person puzzle-adventure set in space on a space station.

You have the play selections of: Engage and Explore with Hostile Threats and Explore without Hostile Threats.

 

When you play the Story option solo the mission you are on to start with is to restore the offline status of the Horus Station to being Online. The Planet has 96% pollution and thus restoration of the Horus Station is imperative.

You arrive at the Horus Station and easily gain entry only to discover that of the Horus A.I. computer systems the Mainenance and Agents sections are the only ones still online, the Reactor Labs, Mainframe, Engineering and Research are all offline. It is up to you to find your way around the Horus Station to each of these sections and then gain entry and discover how to fix the problem. Of course every section has a different problem and thus a different way to fix it.

 

To begin with, in the weightless zero gravity of the Space Station, you have problems moving around. You are supposed to grab a hand rail and then pull so you move through the air clumsily forward; you can also propel yourself off of walls and furniture etc. With luck, though I suspect whichever way you go it will be there available to you, you find what appears to be a gun of some kind. Fire it forward and it sends out a line with an attachment on the end that sticks onto whatever you have aimed at. This line then pulls you along and after using it for a while you can work out how to manouevre yourself around without floating upside-back-and-down-wards (this is like attempting an underwater somersault and not completing it properly so that you suddenly find you don't know which way is up). 

Sometimes doors open automatically and other times you have to work out how to operate their controls, nothing is made totally easy for you even if, like me, you are playing without the fear of an enemy around every corner.For example, a door may show a green light on its control but this doesn't always mean the door is open, you still need to locate another switch or something similar.

 

I have played for a while but feel that I haven't got very far. For instance I located a console that has usable switches and knobsand monitor screens. I have spent ages, and I mean about 30-40 minutes trying every combination of switch and knob position without getting anywhere - probably a frustrating time-wasting red herring ? On the control desk I saw a drive that looked like it should hold a card. Searching around the room I found a roll of tape, some coffee mugs, darts, electronic looking boxes, a bottle and what looked like an electronic key of some sort, all floating around in the non-moving zero gravity. Eventually, stuck to the side of a cabinet, I found a card to fit the drive on the deck - yay it fits, but does something happen ? I'll leave you to discover the answer.

 

In youe left hand you carry the Batman style movement line shooter (never did discover its technical name) which you cannot put down. This leaves you with just your right hand to search and hold other items. I solved one of the puzzles in this room, eventually, but it's like working with one hand tied behind your back. Actually this just makes it far more thoughtful to the solving of problems, after all if you only have one hand to use then you only need one hand to discover.

I found a way to float outside the space station and there were tons of space debris just hanging around, floating in a void. I couldn't move very far around outside as the line-shooter (I've now decided it's also like Spider-Man's web shooter) hasn't got a great range and most things were too far apart. I did get the feeling that I was supposed to locate something or do something special while out there but at this moment in time I have not discovered anything, except that it really is eerie and alone out in space where no one cane hear you scream.

I would have preferred some kind of narration, self-commentary and explanations even some suggestions so you know what you are looking at would have helped and made it a little more realistic. There are certain things in this sort of game that always needles me. For instance, why would you be sent into a place where you have no knowledge of its layout or what you are looking for? Example, a fireman is told to go into a house and turn off the gas cooker that has caught fire. He will most likely be told where the kitchen is prior to him entering, and he will know what a cooker looks like, because he is an experienced professional. By the same token you wouldn't be sent to a space station to get it back online if you didn't have a clue what you were doing, plus you'd have a utility/tool belt of some kind.

 

Okay I am going a bit OTT there because this is a game and if you knew everything to begin with you wouldn't need to solve the problems - though I maintain that the designers could have come up with other problems, but then logic always seems to go out the window with game design for some reason.

Having said all that you might think that I didn't like the game but that would be a wrong assumption. It is frustrating, it doesn't have the best ever graphics, and movement is a pain. There are maps on the space station walls showing where you are and thus where you want to get to, but often I seem to be standing where there should be a way into another room or section (according to the map) and cannot see any way forwards. I try to go up and down wondering if the map isn't detailing the levels of the Space Station, but so far I am still not reading the map as well as I should.

 

I want to complete this game as it is intriguing, but I am also limited in the time I can allow to each game as I have many games that require me to play them for review. I am convinced though that DOWNWARD SPIRAL is worth continuing, pursuing the finale. It is slow going but information gathering often is and every success no matter how minor brings with it great player satisfaction and the feeling that you are getting somewhere towards solving the outlying problems.

I would say that this, even with Hostile Threats, DOWNWARD SPIRAL is not a game for players of HALO or DOOM or games of that genre, it is a complex game of detection set in a science fiction fantasy world. My opinion is that it has a limited audience, sci-fi fans mainly, and that could possibly affect its overall popularity especially as it is unlikely to be given a chance by non sci-fi fans.

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015