After exploring two deserted space ships in both Majestic: Part 1 - Alien Encounter and Symbiocom, Istvan Pely's third and final entry in the Majestic series takes a different approach. This time, it's a barren planet named Rheom 1, inhabited solely by a team of scientists working on a secret project called the Satin Project. On top of that, this 1998 indie adventure again published by Bethesda is now played in the third-person. Will this change of direction make for a better or worse experience than the underappreciated gems that came before?
Not all is well at this research facility. Not too long ago, Dr Victoria Fayn, head of the project killed a colleague in self-defence and as an agent for the Interstellar Transportation Commission (unfortunately named Chatt Rhuller), you are tasked with finding out what the holy hell is going on.
One of the more memorably puzzles has you warming up a walk-in freezer
(now a makeshift morgue) to melt a frozen corpse that's been kept in there.
Before playing Zero Critical (originally titled Satin Rift), the change of perspective was a welcome one. I've always preferred a third-person viewpoint, no matter the genre. Having a face to put to a character instead of a constantly hidden avatar can allow for a deeper connection between the player and the animate sprite walking around but, unfortunately, I found the opposite to be true here. Majestic and Symbiocom both had touching character moments, not with the main characters but with the backstory of the many missing inhabitants leaving echoes of their life behind. Being mostly alive and mostly well, there's no such depth to the characters here.
It doesn't help that there is no voice-over at all in the game. This was 1998, and speech was to be expected for a point-and-click adventure. Coupled with a CGI pre-rendered aesthetic that flits between interesting and detailed to bland and sterile and you have a disappointing third act to an otherwise interesting series.
The luxurious Baron's quarters as presented in both games.
Majestic (left) and Zero Critical (right)
Generally speaking, puzzles are far easier than the environmental observations that came before. Being a third-person adventure, there are a lot more inventory puzzles which are mostly logical. It's more difficult finding objects that using them but considering the small number of screens, it shouldn't take you long to find them. The more complex puzzles require manipulating machinery. One early puzzle that manipulates temperature duplicates one from Symbiocom too, albeit for different purposes. In the previous game, you had to overheat a computer core so that the readouts will spew out some door codes. Here, you have to warm up the walk-in freezer to melt the frozen dead body temporarily stored in there so you can pry an object from its hand.
Despite all of this, progress is usually achieved by simply talking to everyone, exhausting dialogue trees as you go. This isn't as much of a chore as you'd expect as it is fairly well written for the most part. At times, however, it can feel a little over-written. The way some characters speak feels a little unnatural as if they're telling you the player something rather than Chatt the person. Without a robot or artificial intelligence chiming in exposition, conversations can on occasion devolve into exposition dumps or barely disguised plot points.
Once you have access to a vehicle, you can travel to other locations of Rheom 1
Nevertheless, the overall mystery is a rather good one. The plot gets really good just over halfway through when you get to explore more of the planet than the ten-room grey-coloured research facility. By the time the inter-dimensional aliens come into play - a plot point between all three games - the out-there concepts that surround them will make you fully invested. It even answers some lingering questions left by the previous games, deepening the mythology. It's a shame that the most impatient of players won't stick with the rather uneventful first half to get there.
In the end, I believe Zero Critical is very much worth your time. Seasoned adventurers should have no problem completing it in an afternoon and similarly, they're likely to get the most out of it. Like all three in the Majestic trilogy, the game can be played on their own but you'll understand the deeper story and the stakes if you play all three in order. Recommended.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 278 Mb. Install Size: 457 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Watch the trilogy's Video Review!
Zero Critical is © Media Technology Limited
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me