Friday, 17 April 2020

ZERO CRITICAL


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

Download

Watch the trilogy's Video Review!





Zero Critical is © Media Technology Limited
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2018/05/majestic-part-1-alien-encounter.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/the-orion-conspiracy.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2018/10/amber-journeys-beyond.html


13 comments:

  1. Oooo looks good! Gonna have to try this!!!

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  2. Even if I don't have the time or inclination to play this series, it was interesting to read about more interesting games I didn't even know existed.

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  3. I've been wanting to play this for a while, to complete "The Majestic" trilogy. (That's a good name!) I will certainly find the time to play it, especially if it should only take one afternoon. It's unfortunate that it doesn't get as good a review as the previous two entries, but I can at least expect it to have a good story - which isn't immediately obvious at the start. I consider story to be the most important aspect of an adventure game, rather than graphics or puzzles, considering the original text adventures had no graphics at all, and some of the best modern games, such as Gone Home, have no puzzles.

    Biffman's review is quite similar to the adventuregamers review. They also pointed out the monotonous greyscale graphics, the bad conversations, weak characters and lack of voice acting. The difference is that they (wrongly, I feel) didn't give it as much credit for its interesting story as he did, even though they acknowledged it had one.

    Majestic: Part 1 and Symbiocom don't even have reviews on the AG site! I notice that site was founded in August 1998, so most games before that time have no review. For example, the recent Chronomaster doesn't have one either. It would be interesting if these reviews here could be published on that site... but that's just a random idea. I notice HeroOfAvalon said writing them is hard work, but I hope it's enjoyable along the way, too.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you on the story front, I can forgive a lot about a game if it has a strong narrative. As for the hard work part, it can involve a fair amount getting the release working, reviewed and launched, but thus far always been worthwhile.

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  4. Another obscure game no one ever played,will they play now,highly improbable.

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    1. Sorry to here this one doesn't interest you. We have the monthly for April dropping this Friday. Also feel free to make a suggestion of something you like to see. We can't promise we can get it working or when we'll get it online, but we do promise we will do our best.

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  5. I like to see The City of Lost Children.

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    1. I've added this to our request list. Keep an eye on the site as this one was already on our radar :)

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  6. That's a good request. I tried running that, but gave up. I'm not sure that's an obviously better game than Zero Critical, though. Story-wise, I'm sure it isn't, and its gameplay may be frustrating.

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  7. I've played 2 out of 3 of the series. I think that was the first one I did, a while back. Can't remember much more than it was positive experience. I think the other one I did was Majestic: Part 1 - Alien Encounter. As Symbiocom is here as well now i really should find time to play that as well. :)

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  8. "Windows 95" + "Adventure" = Master of Dimensions

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    Replies
    1. I have done some preliminary work on it, but it's not as smooth as I'd like. I don't know if i was originally like that but it appears to be one tricky and buggy game to get running (the game itself looks cool though). More research is needed.

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    2. Thanks Biff. Great to hear there has been progress. Seems it was quite smooth originally so hopefully the kinks can be ironed out.

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