In space no-one can care less about what you get up to when you’ve got a rogue but tragically uninteresting AI on your side.
No it’s not HHGTTG, it’s J.U.L.I.A. which I reviewed for SquareGo
My full review text is below the cut
Deep in the vast bleakness of space, a lone probe ship floats on its quietly merry way. Suddenly out of the black yonder a shower of asteroids pepper the surface, knocking off some possibly essential parts and scratching a few million credits worth of paintwork. It’s a tough welcome to the Salia system for Rachel Manners, the sole remaining crew member, who wakes in a strange situation with the worst bed hair ever to grace a video game, almost all alone and in evident danger.
As beginnings go J.U.L.I.A. isn’t terrible, the pre-rendered opening sequence is moody, stirring and intriguing, with soaring orchestral music thundering away. It’s a big of a shock when moments later the visuals turn into low resolution starfield with some Amiga-era style graphical menus. The low-budget feel is compounded further when Rachel begins to chat with her only two companions, a Stephen Hawking style voiced Mobility Robot called MOBOT, and the titular ship’s computer J.U.L.I.A.
To call the voice acting poor would be unfair, as the problem seems to be more rooted in the downright awful script, with dialogue and evident translation errors. From MOBOT exclaiming that “A dead body is behind recognition” and Rachel’s several diatribes about now being totally alone, it’s clear that the game’s strengths lie elsewhere.
That’s not to say there are no strengths, as the mysterious plot surrounding the six planets of the Salia system and the disappearance of the rest of the crew is actually a thoroughly entertaining romp. Not only that but the open ended nature of the adventure means that after the tutorial-lite that makes up the first planet, the rest of the system is open to exploration in any order. Each planet can be scanned, plundered for minerals and then explored. The mining comes in handy later for ship and MOBOT upgrades, usually needed to overcome some puzzle obstacle.
The gameplay itself is based around a variety of small mini-games and puzzles. From the more complex such as mathematical conundrums and cryptography, to more basic logic and jigsaw style mind benders. Each puzzle usually relies on common sense and none are too difficult for anyone who enjoys a brain teaser. Adding to that, the narrative never moves too far out of view, with a few genuinely unsettling turns and twists which manage to surprise and keep the concept fresh.
The trouble with J.U.L.I.A. is that this is a game that would be far more suited to the mobile market. A game that would have been a must have on iOS or Android feels a little bit stingy on the more powerful PC platform, especially considering the £20 price tag. Ironically the iOS follow-up J.U.L.I.A. Untold has a far shorter scope, relying on the circuit puzzle minigame. As a result it feels a tad cheap, although it’s one of that dying rarity of good solid B+ games that the PC platform used to see so often.