Note: This review was originally published July 10, 1996
The story of R.M.S. Titanic has inspired writers, filmmakers and other creative types probably ever since that fateful day in April 1912. In Titanic: Adventure Out of Time the unfortunate ship provides backdrop for a drama on even grander scale. In this game it's not the fate of Titanic's passengers that is at stake, it is the fate of entire nations and ultimately the whole world.
I'll explain the "out of time" bit: The game starts in London, 1942 - a city suffering under Germain air raids. You play the role of a former British secret service agent who botched an espionage mission on the Titanic thirty years ago. Through some strange chance of fate you have the incredible opportunity to return to R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912 and this time do it right. If you succeed, who knows - you might even change history and prevent a World War or two.
How is that possible? In Titanic, the grand steamship is a veritable gathering place for spies, secret agents, revolutionaries, art smugglers, con artists and other colorful characters. Not to mention the usual aristocrats, wealthy businessmen, entrepreneurs, missionaries, psychics, etcetera etcetera. If you play your cards right, you will be able to greatly influence world history.
To understand the background of the story it is necessary to know a little about European history of early 20th century. Fortunately for those players with weaker memory, at the beginning of the game you'll find a dossier explaining the situation of 1912. Unified Germany is striving to become a superpower. Its ally, the Austro-Hungarian empire, is breaking at the seams as many of its subject nations are trying to break free. Russia is suffering under the rule of autocratic czars, with bolshevik revolutionaries trying to take over (and replace one form of bad government with worse). France dislikes Germany as much as ever. And the Brits, secure in their knowledge of superiority, are trying to rule the world with the minimum of fuss. At the same time many people believe that a war is no longer possible because it would be far too devastating. How incredibly naive.
The beginning of the game may be a little confusing. The reason for that is simple - Titanic was a huge ship and it will take you a while to figure out how to get around the steamer. The game claims to have reproduced the interiors and layout of the R.M.S. Titanic with a great degree of historical accuracy. There is even a guided tour option in the game - it may be a good idea to take the tour before you actually start playing to familiarize yourself with the surroundings.
The gameplay of Titanic is very nonlinear. There are multiple solutions to many problems and a great number of optional actions. One important aspect is game time - after you perform certain actions, the in-game time will advance. This is very important because certain other passengers are working against you and you often need to be faster than they are in retrieving hidden object and so on. Note that the game time is unrelated to real time and will never advance on its own.
There is a number of characters to meet on board R.M.S. Titanic. Some will help you, some will be indifferent, wome will work against you and some may even try to kill you. The people tend to remember your actions - for instance if you are rude to them, they won't speak to you afterwards. This means that the dialogues have a significant influence on the game's outcome and you have to choose your words very wisely. Some dialogues are also puzzles and you will have to figure out how to convince people to help you.
The last part of the game where the Titanic is sinking (you cannot change that) is very dramatic. There are frequent cutscenes of the ship slowly sinking that greatly add to the sense of urgency or even panic. If you are successful, you will save yourself and prevent a war or two. If you aren't... you'll end up as fish food. And the 20th century will be as bloody as ever.
Final Grade: B+
PC / Mac Hybrid
And now we'll examine the game's look and feel. Titanic runs in 640x480 resolution and employs first person view. All backrounds are computer generated (real Titanics are surprisingly hard to come by these days) but there are real actors. I can't quite say live actors because they look more like animated photographs. Movement is "slideshow style" (with mostly 90 degree turns) but with smooth transitions between scenes. The R.M.S Titanic is truly huge, fortunately you are equipped with a map that makes moving around relatively simple and efficient. In the course of the game you will need to find out room numbers of many passengers. It is a good idea to write down these numbers since you'll need many of them more than once.
The sound has good technical quality and there is pleasant background music. The voiceovers are well done and help make it clear who's British, American or German. The aristocrats speak with appropriately posh accents too.
Puzzles are a very interesting part of Titanic. There are very few inventory puzzles and seemingly almost no other puzzles - but this is very misleading. While it is quite easy to finish the game, it is rather difficult to finish it successfully, that is fulfilling your objectives as a British secret agent. Many of the puzzles depend simply on being in the right place at the right time (you can overhear important conversations for instance) and others rely on "correct" interaction with other characters.
For some inexplicable reason the designers felt it necessary to throw several action sequences into the mix - there is fencing and there's a fistfight. I'm generally against action in adventures but the action in Titanic also seems utterly pointless - there does not appear to be any real difference in the outcome regardless of whether you win or lose these fights. So why have them in the first place?
The story of Titanic is almost impossible to describe. Because the game is so nonlinear, the story you will see very much depends on your actions in the game. Instead of one strong central storyline,Titanic offers a number of more or less independent stories that connect in a unique historic setting.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time is a very interesting game. It combines historically accurate background with a completely fantastic story of time travel and changing history (personally I have a suspicion that changing history might not be so simple as this game makes it sound). Sort of a really grand what-if adventure. The reconstruction of R.M.S. Titanic is quite amazing and greatly adds to the atmosphere of Titanic. Fans of espionage and history should especially like this game. Titanic: Adventure Out of Time gets a B+.