INTRODUCTION: Starring superstarlet Tia Carrere, THE DAEDALUS ENCOUNTER boasts a terrific central premise. Is it enough?
THE DAEDALUS ENCOUNTER represents a true missed opportunity. Here is a very good concept for a game, a good visual design, and even a decent format - all undone by shoddy craftsmanship, writing, and technical (non)development.
I'm a huge fan of the POTENTIAL of science fiction as a worthy adventure game genre. So far, though, only The Journeyman Project games have really impressed me as good examples of adventure game SCI FI (I know it's sacrilege, but I don't like Rama or Dark Side of the Moon).
The Daedalus Encounter takes place in a universe not too dissimilar from that of the film Starship Troopers. It's right after a nasty war with some nasty aliens, and three former soldiers find themselves compatriots in a very new kind of venture: interstellar salvage. The captain is played by the lovely Tia Carrere, and second in command by Christian Bocher.
The third member? Well, that's where Daedalus has its one great idea. It seems that in the last misadventure of the recent war, this guy met a terrible fate that completely destroyed his body. All that was saved was his brain. He's now simply a brain in a can, and works as sort of a cross between Robocop and HAL 9000.
Now, we've seen the disembodied sidekick in other games, such as the Journeyman Project 2 and 3. However, this is the first time I've ever seen it as the main character! Yes, the disembodied Casey is the first-person character you play in this game. He's attached to the ship's computers, and frequently to a small flying probe that serves as his eyes, ears, and even hands.
Now, this is a pretty darn cool idea with lots of potential. Plus, having Tia Carrere as a star is a better idea than it may sound. In the world of computer game acting, she's pretty high end, and she is sexy, sharp and funny in the role. There's some repartee between the two human characters, and while a lot of it is annoying, some of it isn't bad. Alien fans will appreciate an in-joke when the crew is deciding what star system to visit next. "How about LV426?" "No, don't want to go there!"
After a brief foray onto a dead enemy ship, the three salvagers take off to a huge, mysterious, seemingly derelict ship in the _____ system. By this time, I was all set for a cool adventure.
Unfortunately, the designers, forgot, among other things, to include, uh, a GAME. There's amazingly little for your character to do. This is mostly an interactive movie. I ended up "playing" most of it from my comfy chair across the room, staring at my nice big computer screen as if I was watching a movie on television.
Oh, there are a few puzzles. A boring, irritating maze (I know, I know, is there any other kind?), a few slider/twiddleware delights, and a series of tediously obtuse door puzzles that would have been more at home in Shivers than in outer space.
Even worse, as in Rama, your character is expected to do things and figure things out that seem completely out of any reasonable logic or plot loop. Making a game "harder" by forcing the player to do illogical or arbitrary things is just shoddy and lazy gamebuilding.
And I haven't even gotten to the worst part. And it is? Quite simply, this is the buggiest game I've ever played. It got so bad it would literally crash every time I finished a puzzle. This was even AFTER installing the "fixes everything" patch. This game couldn't even save properly. Not only does it have fixed save points, like the notorious Atlantis: The Lost Tales, but even those don't work properly! In fact, I would not have even made it through this game without resorting to cheat codes, which I absolutely HATE to do.
In short, this was a game with a good idea put together by people who simply didn't know what the were doing. Better luck next time, Tia. And someone out there, steal this idea and make a good game! And for those interested in encounteringDaedalus, my I suggest the underappreciated 1992 game The Labyrinth of Time.
PROS: Very cool central premise, decent efforts by Ms. Carrere.
CONS: No game, obnoxious puzzles, not enough for player to do, extremely shoddy technical workmanship in this bug-riddled game.
CONCLUSION: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Run in fear. Am I clear on this?
Final Grade: F-
Minimum: 486dx33, 640x480x256, 8MB RAM, 5MB VLB or PCI SVGA, DS CD-ROM Drive. Max/Rec: Pentium, 640x480x65k, 8MB RAM, 25MB VLB or PCI SVGA, 3X CD-ROM Drive.
DVD version also available