31: Mission Critical

Publisher: Legend
Developer: Legend
Year: 1995
Platform: DOS, Windows

Review: An easy, plot-driven space-faring adventure by Legend Entertainment, Mission Critical tells the story of a lone surviving crewman of a terrible battle. An incredibly long FMV opening sequence depicts this battle where the Alliance (composed mostly of survivors of North America) loses to the United Nations at a key turning point in the war. However, the captain (played by Michael Dorn), decides to destroy his own crew to save the ship (and its secrets) by taking the enemy with him. As you were left unconscious and were the only person kept aboard, the U.N. ignored your presence, allowing the kamikaze plan to work. Now awake, you must quickly make repairs to the ship, figure out what’s really going on in this war, and try to complete your ship’s mission.

As with all Legend games, you play from the first-person perspective. Puzzles are mostly inventory based but are creative and perfectly logical. Never does one feel contrived or thrown in just to make the game longer. Sadly, many are too easy, ramping down the satisfaction level taken from completing them. The ship’s computer will also help guide you nearly to the answer for many problems. But the puzzles do their job, which is provide the necessary pacing to make this extensive story work. Information is revealed slowly, with regards to suspense and intrigue. It is also possible to die, either violently or due to running out of time (though the time limit is very liberal), which adds to the realism. And thankfully, it is impossible to put the game in an unwinnable state.

One aspect that does hurt the pacing is a battle simulator, where you must practice several missions before fighting a few real ones. While the simulation is well-done and the difficulty level can be adjusted to please any gamer, it seems out of place, especially with the type of adventurer the writers had in mind.

The graphics and sound are above-average, and the FMV sequences are beautifully done. Being dead, Michael Dorn’s character doesn’t make a lot of appearances  but it was fun seeing him without the Klingon makeup on. The other actors are up to the task as well, except perhaps the protagonist, who sometimes makes it a little too obvious he’s reading from a script.

While nothing about Mission Critical strikes me as fantastic, it is very solid throughout until the end, where the story comes hurtling at the player with seemingly endless exposition. Thankfully, the game rescues itself a bit with the final puzzle, which is clever and satisfying enough. I would recommend this game to any adventure fan who’s looking for a sci-fi story that plays more like an episode of Star Trek than a puzzlefest.

Contemporary RatingMedium. Intuitive, but the battle simulator definitely doesn’t stand the test of time.

Cruelty Rating:  Polite. You must save the game regularly, but you don’t have to obsess about it.

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