Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

More info »

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock review
Ewan Wilson

Review

Not a puzzle wrapped in an enigma

Morningís origin


The Morningstar is the name of the spaceship you have crash landed. Deadrock is the barren planet you are now stranded on. Your shipís hull has been badly perforated; its life systems are leaking, the engine is damaged and the captain is injured. Itís down to you to get the Morningstar up and running again, but this will involve a salvage run that will take you out into the hostile wastes of Deadrock. Whatís more, not everything on the ďdeadĒ world is as it seems.

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock was originally browser-based shareware. This is the spruced-up re-release, in higher-resolution and with new voiceovers. Morningstarís browser-based origin shows. Its CGI cutscenes are textured sparingly and the animations in each panel are limited. That said, the lighting and ambient sounds are enough to hold up an eerie atmosphere of being ďlost in spaceĒ, even if the spartan visuals are reminiscent of Myst and Riven from the 90ís. The game takes place entirely in first person, although this doesnít have too large of an impact as movement between scenes is done through fade ins and outs. Unfortunately, you never quite feel like you are occupying a body or peering through the visor of your spacesuit.

Not a puzzle wrapped in an enigma


Unlike Cyanís classics, Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is much less enigmatic. It leans more heavily on its atmosphere and story, which flows at a consistent pace. I didnít find myself stuck for any considerable period of time. Puzzles involve ďmousingĒ over points of interest in the individual scenes (thereís not really any pixel-hunting). You pick up the items in reach, combine them with others and then use them to progress. At any point in the adventure you can radio the Morningstarís immobilised captain, who will throw you a fairly straightforward hint. This makes things a little easy, particularly for those who are impatient, but itís hard to criticise the design decision. We live in a period where solutions are abundant, and all Morningstarís hint system does is cut out the middle man (Google).

Morningstar is a short adventure Ė it takes about two hours to complete, provided you donít get stuck for ages. Some of the puzzles towards the end of the game are slightly more obtuse, and forced me to whip out the olí pen and pad. Other than that it was pretty smooth sailing. It is an adventure that respects your time. If you can manage to avoid the hint-system, you may find things more challenging, although overall the puzzles and item-combinations felt fairly logical and self-explanatory.

The inescapable well of convention


For those who have played the browser-based version, the new scenes and improved visuals probably wonít be enough to make Morningstar worth revisiting, but for those who know nothing about it, the short sci-fi thriller may be worth a look in. At its core is a journey of discovery. Repairing your ship and getting off Deadrock runs parallel to uncovering the planetís central mystery. Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock isnít anything new of course. Itís familiar sci-fi tropes alongside well-worn point-and-click puzzling. Convention can of course still be appealing, it is just a pity this adventure doesnít have much of an identity to set it apart.

6.5

fun score

Pros

Sci-fi atmosphere, never frustrating, good logic to the puzzles and item combinations.

Cons

Spartan visuals, doesnít make much use of the first-person perspective, very formulaic and never manages to overcome existing conventions.