The Starship Damrey is a unique title from Level-5, the talented development studio behind the Professor Layton Series and critically acclaimed RPG Ni No Kuni. This horror/mystery thriller is set 50 years in the future and takes place on a spacecraft called The Starship Damrey. Although the story revolves around a character who awakens with amnesia from a stasis of cryogenic sleep and doesn’t remember who he is, the main navigation throughout the ship is done through the onboard robots known as ARs. There are eight robots to control, with the main one being AR-7. As I navigated this mysteriously haunting ship, I unfortunately ran into a number of issues that dampened the experience.
The Starship Damrey begins by telling the player that the game contains absolutely no tutorial and zero hints. Figuring out what to do through exploration and discovery is part of the experience. This choice in concept, while appreciated for its originality and bravery, very well may have hurt the game more than it does the game justice. About half the times I solved anything, I didn’t feel clever or accomplished. With each breakthrough achieved, further progression was rewarded. Many times when these breakthroughs occurred I had to ask, “Really?” or just question the game and ask, “Are you kidding me?” The game felt like it was pulling cheap tricks when this happens. The key to moving on was so obscure and so unfairly hidden that I felt more frustration when finding it than relief.
The Nintendo 3DS’ d-pad is used to control the robots, and the system’s circle pad is used to examine the surroundings. The only way to do this is to keep the ARs stationary. The amount of area to scan is very restrictive as well. Navigation is in the fashion of simple 90 degree turns which has a lack of precision that can be unbearable. While going through the environments of the game, there is nothing that stands out. Everything is bland and gray. Keeping in mind the limitations of the 3DS hardware, the graphics are very unimpressive. What’s even worse are the horrendous-looking cutscenes which pull off something most games excel at with ease: the cutscenes actually look worse than the in-game presentation. The 3D does next to nothing for immersive gameplay and has no use but to drain the battery.
With that being said, this doesn’t stop the game from being any less scary. On top of the mystery and exploration, this game has some downright creepy things to offer. From the monotone that sounds when the ARs move around to the rapid clicks of the space leeches hidden around the ship that need exterminating, this game will cause some jumps and shrieks. There are also some supernatural elements that assist in the horror. Audio in The Starship Damrey is essential as well. Though it’s simplistic, it’s very effective. Little bumps and other unexplained sounds all add to the experience.
This haunting ships hold secrets I won’t spoil here, but there are crew mates to discover and examine. As the robot discovers their bodies, it retrieves their ID card which then in turn allows it to explore more rooms. Each room doesn’t offer much to look at, let alone explore, but they do pave the way to what’s next and are very satisfying to gain access to. When the game does move at a friendly pace, it keeps the player on their toes as unexpected things may happen when entering or exiting a room.
The game holds secrets that are interesting to uncover. While very bland in style and presentation, it makes up for with mystery and genuine horror. Creepy space leeches, a mysterious ghost that haunts the ship, and dead crew mates and robots are all elements that make this one tense horror game. The title is only about three hours long, but the painful and mindless retreading of steps as I searched for the answer to progression unnecessarily extended my playthrough.
Starship Damrey was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS platform, with a review code provided by the developer. For more information on how Indie Game Insider conducts reviews, check out our review policies.