Notable, pioneering, but largely ignored point-and-click adventure from developers Revolution, before they hit the big time with the Broken Sword titles.

The first notable thing about the game was the design. Set in Australia in a dystopic post-war future, characters and backgrounds were all created and drawn by Dave Gibbons, the illustrator of Watchmen, who also created a short graphic novel bundled with the game that acted as an intro sequence. This artwork was backed up by a solid sci-fi plot (which owes a lot to Bladerunner), and a well realised game universe, with plenty of background detail.

The interface was a masterwork, a highly revised version of the Virtual Theatre engine first used in Lure of the Temptress. Left click to look at something, right click to interact with it. If you moved to the top of the screen, a drop-down inventory appeared containing your items. This meant that during normal play, the screen was totally uncluttered, displaying Gibbons' excellent artwork. Dialogue is conducted with the usual SCUMM style options list, and notably uses COMIC style EMPHASIS to stress certain words, which somehow doesn't get annoying.

You control Robert Foster, an orphan from the city raised by an Aboriginal tribe in the bush, attempting to escape the city after your abduction by government agents. Accompanying you on your journey is your (rather sarcastic) robot, Joey, who can take commands from you and carry out actions autonomously. Rather neatly, Joey's personality is stored on a circuit-board which can be plugged into a variety of different robot shells for different functions. The plot involves Robert's forgotten past, AI systems, the superiority of machines over man, and the class structure of the city, where the poor live in the highest buildings and the rich live at ground level.

While there is a humourous element to the game, most of it is very dark, and the overall plot is very serious. It's not a Lucasarts style can't-go-wrong game, as there are various deadly hazards, but it's not stupidly easy to die as in most Sierra titles. The game was released in floppy and CD talkie versions for MS-DOS, and is certainly worth a look if you ever find it on an Abandonware site. break reminds me that it was also released for the Amiga 1200 (in tasty AGA-o-vision) and the short lived cd32.

And remember...


In 2003 Revolution Software re-released "Beneath a Steel Sky" as freeware. It is playable on several different platforms (including Linux and MacOS) using a freeware cross-platform adventure game interpreter ScummVM. It is wonderful to see the commercial companies cooperating with the open source software developers !

The game can be downloaded from ScummVM home page.

I've tried the Linux version and played for about half an hour - the game run very smoothly, the speech worked as well as sound effects. Unfortunately, the speech eventually disappeared and after a couple of minutes, the game was completely stuck. ScummVM is still in beta, so naturally, some bugs are to be expected. Meanwhile, the useful playing tip would be to save often !

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.