As my podcast co-host, Shaquil Hansford, is fond of reminding me, I’m probably the oldest person working at G3. Being of my age, I can recall the advent of ‘choose your own adventure’ novels. These novels afforded readers the ability to take part in each adventure through various choices, which altered each experience. Rainbow Despair attempts to bring my once cherished childhood pastime to the current generation of consoles with their XBLA indie game, Epiphany in Spaaace!
Epiphany in Spaaace! is an interactive novel that parodies some of the most famous franchises in the Sci-Fi genre. Most of the main characters are inspired by Star Trek: The Original Series, and there are even some allusions to the Star Wars movies, which, as parodies go, is about as cliche as it gets. Bland attempts at humor which produced more groans than chuckles marred my experience, though the plot seems to have been written by a fifth grader, anyway.
My first experience with the game had me reading multiple walls of text which introduced me to the main protagonist, Philemon K. Bort, whose destiny I would be controlling from that point forward. The story began on the day preceding Philemon’s final exam and graduation from the G.A.S.H. Academy. If your mind just went to a naughty place, don’t feel bad; so did mine. I was met by my first round of choices, and they turned out to be the most important of the game. My next decision would dictate whether I’d Captain my own vessel or become a lowly lieutenant on a broken down, old garbage scow.
The choices made, I awaited the next wall of text; Philemon graduated G.A.S.H. and became captain of the U.S.S. Epiphany, beginning my adventure. At this point, I figured I was done reading text and would be treated to some illustrated cut scenes, or maybe even some side scrolling, shoot em’ up space combat. I was wrong.
As my story progressed, I realized that Epiphany in Spaaace! was a video game version of the ‘choose your own adventure’ books. Dear lord, I thought, this game wants me to use my imagination. This really is not something I’m used to doing with most video games. In most games, players generally interact with the developer’s imagination, and are rarely required to draw themselves a mental picture of the events unfolding. I found this a nice change of pace, but also questioned why Rainbow Despair did not take advantage of the tools that a visual medium provides. Some illustrations would have benefited Epiphany in Spaaace greatly. Heck, I would have even been cool with some poorly drawn stick figures. I dusted off my imagination helmet and pressed on.
The game’s juvenile attempts at humor actually became painful after a while. I’m sure a young child might have giggled, but as an adult, all I could do was groan and force myself to read on. Fortunately, the storyline and my suffering ended about two minutes later. Rainbow Despair showed some foresight here, and I did not have to start all the way back at the beginning of the story. Once I reached my conclusion, I was able to back track as far as I wanted and follow different paths.
Epiphany in Spaace! is a game that, while novel in concept, only fell short in its execution. With a game of this nature, the writing is everything, and in that regard, Epiphany in Spaaace! falls short. The relatively small amount of time it takes to complete a storyline (about 10 minutes for mine) hindered my ability to become immersed in the plot or get my imaginative juices flowing. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with a parody. In fact, I enjoy them. But a bad parody is quite possibly the worst thing one can endure, and that is exactly what Epiphany in Spaaace! is. I hope that in the future, Rainbow Despair and any other developers that attempt a game of this nature can keep in mind that they are not only working in an interactive medium, but a visual one as well.
Taking some writing classes wouldn’t hurt, either.
- The choices of font and size make the game easy to read
- Ability to backtrack to your last choice and choose another path
- Walls of text with no graphics to break it up
- Attempts at humor often produce groans instead of chuckles
- It does not take to long to complete a storyline
- Random Fact:
- Many of the supporting cast in Epiphany in Spaaace! are inspired by Star Trek: The Original Series
Epiphany in Spaaace! was developed bnbow Despair and published by Microsoft for the Xbox Live Arcade on October 20th, 2009.