Orion Conspiracy

5At first glance, it appears that this new title has all the ingredients for a great adventure game: A twisting plot, plenty of unique characters to interact with, and fair but challenging puzzles. I guess it just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving, because almost none of that potential is fulfilled. This sci-fi adventure game is set in 2160, and casts you in the role of Devlin McCormack, former captain of a research vessel. McCormack retired several years earlier after being injured in an attack by a rival company’s starship during the “corporation wars” that began as disputes over territorial rights.

But McCormack’s troubles didn’t end there. He was scorned by company employees for his inability to work, and soon his home life crumbled, too. His son Danny left home for an apprenticeship at the Kobayashi Corporation, then his wife committed suicide. The final straw came shortly thereafter: Danny was killed in a mysterious accident after a routine patrol to explore the event horizon of a black hole.

The game opens after the memorial service at the Kobayashi Research Station Cerberus. As McCormack sits in his quarters, someone slides an anonymous note under the door — and it says that Danny’s death was not an accident. Your goal: to find out what — or who — really caused Danny’s death, and learn why Kobayashi Corp. is so intent on hushing up the whole affair. It’s an interesting story with a lot of potential for graphic-adventure goodness, but it commits one cardinal sin – it’s never exciting.

Where do things go wrong? Well, the first big drawback is the poor voice acting: Few if any lines are delivered in a truly convincing manner. Often the dialog is so listless and dry that it sounds as though it’s being read right from the game’s script by people who’ve probably never done anything like this in their lives — you really have to hear it to appreciate just how lame it is. Even the addition of some fairly strong adult language (expect to hear at least five of the Seven Words you can’t say on TV) doesn’t help liven things up significantly.

Then there’s the way the game handles interaction with the characters. When McCormack meets someone you can talk to, you’re given the same list of questions every time: What is your job? What’s it like to work here? How well did you know Danny? Did anything unusual happen before Danny’s death? A question is usually added to the list that applies specifically to the person you’re addressing, but these simply aren’t enough to shake the weary feeling of sameness that permeates each conversation.

4But the biggest problem with The Orion Conspiracy is the incredible amount of walking that Devlin does. I’d guess that more than half of the time you spend playing this game will be taken up by simply watching Devlin make his way from place to place; what’s worse, many of the screens (especially the seemingly endless decks where the crew lives) look identical. It can take Devlin nearly five minutes to go check out a location, then five minutes on the way back — and all you can do is sit on your hands and wish he’d pick up the damn pace a little.

It’s a shame, because if you stick with it for long enough you’ll find a pretty devious mystery that needs to be solved. Too bad only the most patient of gamers will be able to make it to that far.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS

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