There’s something charmingly quaint about this short 3DS adventure story, set in the dimly lit rooms and cramped corridors of the titular spacecraft. Rather than recent visual novels like Virtue’s Last Reward, it feels much closer in spirit to the low-budget chillers of the PSOne era: it’s a little awkward in places, and visually rough, but it does a lot with very little, conjuring a rich atmosphere by keeping the lights low and the sound effects sparse.
You begin, rather unpromisingly, with amnesia, waking in a cryo-pod with no immediate means of exit. Instead, you must remotely guide a robot around the Damrey, solving a variety of puzzles as you gradually uncover the reasons for your lock-in, and the mystery behind the apparent absence of the ship’s crew. The game is at pains to highlight its lack of tutorials or explanations, but outside an intriguing opening, its conundrums are unlikely to leave you stumped for long, a result of the ship’s compactness and the robot’s inability to carry more than one item at once.
No matter. The story grips for its three-hour duration – an eleventh-hour reveal is faintly silly but logically explained – while its handful of shocks are occasionally cheap but expertly deployed. It even finds time for an amusing pastiche of a sci-fi classic, a comedic beat that simultaneously feels out of place and yet is entirely in keeping with the offbeat tenor of a game that is old-fashioned and proud of it.
The Starship Damrey is out now on 3DS.