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Game Info:

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock 
Developed by: Red Herring Labs|
Published by: Phoenix Online Studios
Released: February 17, 2015
Available on: Windows, Mac
Genre: First-person adventure
Number of players: 1
Price: $9.99

Thank you, Phoenix Online Studios, for sending us this game to review!

Beta Cygni Two is a typical ball of dirt orbiting a nondescript sun. The atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, the surface is little more than rock and sand, and there have never been any signs of life on it. 

However, of all the ships that have landed on it, none have returned. No one has been able to solve this mystery, so the United Nations has declared the planet “off-limits.” No one is allowed to explore it or try to rescue any possible survivors.

The crew of the Morningstar, though, doesn't have much choice. The small cargo ship has crash landed on the banned planet. The engineer was killed during the accident and the captain, Novak, severely injured. It's up to the last crew member, Powell, to figure out how to repair the ship and get off the Deadrock.

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting storyline, nice graphics, good voice acting
Weak Points: Short game, no replay value
Moral Warnings: Blood, mild language

The player controls the snarky Powell through this adventure. The gameplay is remarkably similar to other first-person adventure games from the '90s, such as Myst or The Labyrinth of Time. The graphics seem a lot like Myst as well – almost entirely CGI still frames, with very little animation on the screen, aside from the shifting light. Playing the game is a bit like navigating through an imaginative, well-designed PowerPoint presentation. The game is fully voice-acted, and the music does a good job conveying the atmosphere of the spooky, lonely planet.

The display consists of the scene as seen through Powell's helmet, with an inventory along the right side of the screen, buttons at the bottom to link to the menu and the “radio,” and captioning of the voices appear at the top of the screen. Simply mousing over items on the screen will indicate what can be clicked on, either to interact with or objects to pick up. To use an item from the inventory, simply drag it out of the inventory and over the element on the screen. The radio serves as the in-game “hint” system. Clicking on it will bring up a line from Captain Novak, who offers suggestions as to what to try next. Most of the time, this hint will be enough to tell the player what they need to do next in order to advance the plot. If that isn't enough, the Web site for Red Herring Labs includes a full walkthrough. 

 

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 90%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Those determined to get through the game wouldn't need to consult the walkthrough, though. Most of the challenges are not terribly difficult to figure out, especially with the hint system, and there aren't any threats to Powell as he explores Deadrock. Despite the dangers that have defeated so many others that have landed on the planet, Powell is blissfully ignored as he uncovers the secrets of the deserted world. The game is extremely short, as well – I was able to complete the game in less than three hours, and that included handling things that took me away from the computer while playing the game. This aspect is one trope that tends to irritate me, no matter where it appears – professional explorers or treasure seekers remain stumped by mysteries for years, decades, or even centuries. Yet along comes some hapless kid who is able to uncover all the secrets, solve all the puzzles, and make it back home in the period of a couple hours. Needless to say, once the game is completed and all the achievements gained, there is very little reason to fire this game up again.

On the moral side of things, there are a few concerns, but it certainly isn't as alarming or gloomy as other games. For starters, despite its name, there are no zombies to fight. There is some blood, though – the captain of the Morningstar is disabled by a steel rod driven through his side. He survives his injuries thanks to futuristic medicines, but the wound basically immobilizes him for the rest of the game. There are plenty of dead bodies to be found in the game, but since all of them are dressed in full-body environmental suits, with helmets, there's nothing gruesome to be seen there. In one part of the game it is possible to see some human bones, though. There are some mild language issues as well – “crap” “d*mn” and “h*ll” are said several times, “b***h” is said once, and the Lord's name is taken in vain once. But there's no language stronger than that. 

Deadrock is hardly a vacation destination. Fortunately, there isn't much reason to stay once you've arrived, anyway. The game seems more like a prologue to a larger story. Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock was originally a Web-based Flash game, and with its brevity, it may as well be little more than a fancier version of that. At $9.99, it's a pricey endeavor, but if found on sale, the game can be an entertaining – but short – experience. Demos are available through Steam and on the Phoenix Online Studio's Web site. For some reason, my Mac would not open the demo on Steam, but downloading it from the Web didn't lead to any issues. For those wanting to try out the game before putting any money into it, this option is always nice.

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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