Andromeda Apocalypse is a parser-based science fictional puzzle game. As usual, the jump will be followed by non-spoilery comments; then if I have anything spoilery to say, there will be spoiler space. The fact that I am reviewing it at all indicates that there are beta-testers.
Andromeda Apocalypse is a sequel to last year’s Andromeda Awakening, and already there are also a couple of other games set in the same universe, making for a rare shared-universe fiction; there aren’t a lot of these in recent IF. I haven’t played the games contributed to the series by authors other than Marco (Andromeda Dreaming by Joey Jones and Tree and Star by Paul Lee), but I think it’s a cool concept. Andromeda Apocalypse immediately conveys strong production values, accompanied as it is by several feelie images depicting items that link this game to Andromeda Awakening.
Fortunately, Apocalypse is clear enough about what’s going on that it’s not really necessary to have played through all the other entries: the protagonist’s planet was recently destroyed, and he escaped using an alien technology he doesn’t fully understand but found buried underground. That’s all the information you really need, and it’s made clear by the prologue of the present game. At the beginning of Andromeda Apocalypse, the protagonist lands on a ghost ship of sorts and must learn to reawaken its systems and make use of its resources.
Like Innocenti’s first installment in the series, Apocalypse mostly takes place in a deserted environment, with technology left behind by unknown entities. The puzzles are generally Myst-like exercises in hooking up battery power, experimenting with buttons, trying to figure out what controls what.
Apocalypse is altogether a more satisfying game, though, in my opinion. The prose appears to have been more extensively proofread by native English speakers: I found it considerably easier to understand what was meant to be happening and which items in a room were likely to reward interaction. Where the author chose to use evocative imagery, it was clear that that was the intention, and not that there was some mistake/miscommunication at work.
The puzzles were also fairer, several of them offering multiple solutions. The hint system gives a number of clues.
The plot was more engaging as well, I thought: at least, once I started to find out what had happened, I was increasingly invested. The ship has a resident operating system/AI that becomes the main NPC for the latter half of the game, and I really enjoyed interacting with it. I came away at the end of Andromeda Apocalypse wondering about what would happen next. There are vast forces at work, but what are they doing and why?
One thing only makes me sad.
There were both thematic and gameplay hints, I thought, that it ought to be possible to find Logan’s database and take it away with you, thus achieving the triumph of preserving something of the civilization that made the ghost ship, as well as some bits of the history of your own civilization. You’re explicitly told in what region of the ship that database can be found. But if there’s a way to get there, I couldn’t figure it out. The transport pod won’t go there, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to realign the train tracks to take me to the starboard area; and anyway I waste quite a bit of my 40 minutes of escape time just killing the toothy beast.
But I really feel sure that there must be a solution. The Hint system doesn’t help with this, but did anyone find it?