Welcome to Fourth of July Weekend, when all thoughts of gaming take second place to fireworks, flags, grills, and sunburn. With all the time dedicated to loud noises and seared meat, it is likely we won't have any moments to spare for digital entertainment. Of course, by Sunday evening when we're lounging in pain and wondering why we forgot about sunscreen... again... a little light gaming might be in order.
So lets look back a few years for a title you may have never played, but absolutely should. Beneath a Steel Sky was released in 1994 by Revolution Software in the UK. By genre, it is a point and click adventure title, but a better description would be interactive graphic novel. Beneath a Steel Sky takes place in a quasi-apocalyptic future of powerful corporations that control the city via a rigid class structure and a powerful computer. The protagonist, your character, is kidnaped from outside the city in a cinematic-slide show that begins the game. With his trusty sidekick, Joey the robot, the protagonist navigates through several levels slowly figuring out the truth behind the city's situation.
The writing is phenomenal. The game is littered with clever banter, one-liners, and characters both comedic and absurd. If you imagine Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, only at a slower pace, you'll have a decent feel for the type of humor I'm talking about. Talk to everyone. There are some gems tucked into of the way places you will not want to miss. The voice acting is also very impressive and timeless. While the graphics are obviously dated, it is fifteen years old after all, the writing and voice acting keep this game very enjoyable.
A short, but good, story line and a classic sci-fi comic feel make this a great game for anyone who enjoys reading Asimov, modern point and click adventures, or watching classic sci-fi. Best of all... it's free. You can find it in a few places around the internet, but I would recommend Good Old Games. Included with the download from GoG is a walk-through that doesn't give away the story, just in case you get stuck. All in all, Beneath a Steel Sky is a perfect example of games that stay fun despite their age and makes for a very light and enjoyable evening of gaming.