Review: “Beneath A Steel Sky” (Freeware Computer Game)

2015 Artwork Beneath A Steel Sky Review sketch

Well, since I recently finished playing a really interesting cyberpunk point and click adventure game from 1994 called “Beneath A Steel Sky”, I thought that I’d review it.

This game was released as freeware back in 2003 and you can get it from a number of different places, including GoG (where I downloaded it from) and this site.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Beneath A Steel Sky”.

It goes without saying but, for a 1990s game, the graphics are AMAZING!

It goes without saying but, for a 1990s game, the graphics are AMAZING!

In “Beyond A Steel Sky”, you play as a man called Robert Foster who lives in the wasteland between two giant corporate-owned cities. Foster has lived in a village there since a helicopter crash when he was just six years old.

One day, another helicopter lands near the village. Several men in military uniforms emerge from it and – after killing a few of the villagers – they demand that Foster comes with them. Reluctantly, Foster gets into the helicopter.

But, as they are flying back into the city, the helicopter suddenly develops technical problems and crashes into a factory. Once again being the survivor of a horrific crash, Foster escapes from his captors and starts exploring the city in the hope of finding some answers…..

Despite the rather “serious” premise of the game, one of the first things I will say about “Beneath A Steel Sky” is that it is one of the funniest games that I have played in quite a while.

One of the funniest things about this game is that, for quite a bit of it, you are accompanied by a hilariously sarcastic robot called Joey. Seriously, he’s one of the best characters in the game:

He also posesses a functioning bullshit detector, has an unhealthy obsession with welding and doesn't believe in Asimov's laws of robotics...

He also posesses a functioning bullshit detector, has an unhealthy obsession with welding and doesn’t believe in Asimov’s laws of robotics…

Not only that, the settings of this game are an absolutely hilarious caricature of 1980s/1990s England. For example, the industrial parts of the city are at the top (and everyone there has northern accents) and the pretentiously posh parts of the city are on ground level (where everyone has southern accents, like mine).

Plus, I’m pretty sure that stunning locales like this only exist in one part of the world:

 Ah, it reminds me of the old Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth. You will be missed...

Ah, it reminds me of the old Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth. You will be missed…

There are also a couple of absolutely brilliant jokes which you’ll probably only really get if you’re British (or possibly Australian) – like an insurance salesman you meet called Billy Anchor (say his name quickly three times, if you don’t get the joke).

This is what happens if you look at the picture of London. It's funny because it's true...

This is what happens if you look at the picture of London. It’s funny because it’s true…

Yes, this game comes from the British dystopic sci-fi comics tradition of the 1980s and 90s. In fact, one of the people who worked on this game was none other than Dave Gibbons (of “Watchmen” fame). Literally, this game is almost like something out of an old “2000AD” comic – with all of the dark humour that you would expect from something like this.

More to the point, why AREN'T there any kebab shops in this game?

More to the point, why AREN’T there any kebab shops in this game?

Still, saying all of this, most of the humour is fairly universal – and if you have a slightly dark and cynical sense of humour, then this game will make you literally laugh out loud on a regular basis.

Even so, the story of the game gradually gets more “serious” as you progress further through the game and get to visit creepier settings, like this abandoned train station:

It's actually a hard-hitting social comment about railway privatisation. Ok, I totally made that up...

It’s actually a hard-hitting social comment about railway privatisation. Ok, I totally made that up…

And, well, it wouldn’t be a 1990s cyberpunk game without at least a few bizarrely trippy scenes set in cyberspace – or “LINC space”, as the game calls it:

Remember when everyone thought that the future of the internet would look like THIS?

Remember when everyone thought that the future of the internet would look like THIS?

But, what about the gameplay? Well, it’s a traditional point and click adventure game – you left-click on things to examine them or to talk to people, and you right-click on things to perform actions. I quite liked these simplified controls and, although they take a bit of getting used to, they work really well.

One of the slight flaws with this game is the fact that it lacks a fast movement option. Since you’ll end up backtracking quite a bit, waiting for Foster to walk slowly across each screen can get annoying after a while.

Not only that, Joey moves even more slowly. What this means is that if you need him in a particular part of the game, you’ll have to wait for him to catch up with you. Yes, this might be “realistic”, but it’s also kind of annoying.

Yes, it'll be at least another twenty seconds before Joey shows up. Even Foster looks bored....

Yes, it’ll be at least another twenty seconds before Joey shows up. Even Foster looks bored….

As for the puzzles, I should probably point out that I’m absolutely terrible at these types of puzzles – so I ended up consulting a walkthrough guide on a regular basis. Whilst some of the puzzles are fairly easy to work out, quite a few of them are aimed at most experienced fans of the genre.

Even so, most of the puzzles are at least vaguely logical – although expect to do a bit of pixel hunting once or twice:

After getting stuck for about half an hour, I finally gave up and started relying on a walkthrough after I realised that I needed to find this little grey pixel in order to progress further in the game

After getting stuck for about half an hour, I finally gave up and started relying on a walkthrough after I realised that I needed to find this little grey pixel in order to progress further in the game

The music in this game is absolutely brilliant too. It never gets annoying or repetitive and the theme music for the industrial parts of the city is wonderfully atmospheric and surprisingly catchy too.

All in all, if you want a unique cyberpunk adventure game with interesting settings and a lot of very cynical humour, then you can’t go wrong with “Beneath A Steel Sky”. And, since it’s a freeware game that will run on pretty much any computer, there’s really no excuse not to play it.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.