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005 - Robinson's Requiem

atarilbc

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Robinson's Requiem
Published 2011 by Songbird Productions
Developed by Silmarils Sofware

 

Robinson's Requiem is a combination first person adventure and point and click survival game. The player is Trepliev1, a Robinson space explorer from Alien World Exploration (AWE) who becomes stranded on the planet Zarathustra. With minimal equipment, you set out to explore the planet and survive various hazards. These include other Robinsons, natives, and a generally hostile environment. Robinson's Requiem saw release in the mid-90s on a variety of computer platforms including the Atari ST, the Atari Falcon, the Commodore Amiga and the PC. The game was also released on the 3DO.

 

The Jaguar port of Robinson's Requiem was released by Songbird Productions in 2011. For those not familiar with Songbird, the company is run by Carl Forhan and specializes in the completion and release of "lost games" for the Atari Jaguar and Atari Lynx. Robinson's Requiem is one such title. Advertised on the back of the Jaguar CD packaging, the game was essentially complete when Atari ceased support of the Jaguar platform in 1996. Years later, Carl rescued the game and licensed it from the developers for release. Like all Songbird releases, the game has professional packaging on par with Atari's commercial Jaguar releases.

 

So, how does Robinson's Requiem stack up? Let's take a stroll on Zarathustra to find out!

 

Gameplay: The computer roots of Robinson's Requiem are clearly evident in the game's control scheme. The player uses the d-pad to move a cursor on the screen to search an area or body, pick up and use items, or access options from the ever present icon panel and "Sesame" screen. The Jaguar 9-key pad is used to move across Zarathustra's sprite-based landscape. The control scheme is anything but intuitive and would likely be better suited for a keyboard and mouse. That said, after an hour or so of roaming, I got the hang of it.

 

The game is light on action. I quickly encountered two other Robinsons and had to kill both of them. The first, a man by the name of Socrates19, warned me - via an FMV sequence - that it was "every man for himself", that I was in his sector and that I needed to get lost or else. He went down with a few awkward punches which were activated by clicking on the weapons icon, selecting the fist icon and pressing "B." If that sounds laborious, that's because it is. It's very clunky and unresponsive.

 

Searching Socrates' body revealed a treasure trove of equipment, including a survival knife, matches, battery and gourd. These can be used later in combination with other items to fight (knife), build a fire (matches) or get water. The second Robinson, a man named Darwin5, seemed pleasant enough at first but by the end of his FMV inexplicably turned into a werewolf.

 

Moving around the game's environment was less than thrilling. I found myself hitting dead ends and getting stuck in crevices of the world map. There is an overhead map but I didn't find it very helpful. As it is, Socrates and Darwin5 were the only souls that I encountered in my time with the game. Zarathustra, garden spot that it is, seems oddly devoid of life.

 

One of the more interesting gameplay mechanics is "manufacture". You can select items that you have scavenged and combine them to make a tool. For example, I used a branch and wire form the wreckage of my ship to make a noose. While crafting is commonplace in many of today's games, it is surprisingly deep for a 90s adventure. I have no doubt more useful tools are available but I didn't get that far into the game. In two hours I managed to kill the only two people I met, fill up my water gourd, boil said water, slice leaves and branches from trees, find some food and give myself food poisoning.

 

Speaking of food poisoning, another action is a medical scan. Activating medical scan will let you check your overall health and determine what is wrong, the seriousness of the illness and treatment options provided you have the medicine. Like the manufacture feature, I found the need to scan and treat illnesses to be a nice touch.

 

Graphics: Graphically, Robinson's Requiem is a mis-mash. Like other early CD-rom games, the developers were perhaps trying too hard to use all that the new medium had to offer. At start-up, the game treats the player to some classic 90s CG rendered video. The intro sequence is lengthy and sets up your mission and crash landing on Zarathustra. Once you take control, the game switches to a first person perspective. The game world is made of sprite-based textures. They are very muddy and do not look good at all. Pop-up is horrible and every few minutes there is a slight pause in the action to load a new area of the map. The landscape is dotted with trees that seem like paper cutouts and you are surrounded by mountains. When you do come upon another Robinson, they appear as a generic human shaped sprite. Upon approach, you'll be treated to grainy FMV typical of CD consoles of the day. Acting is sub-B movie level.

 

On the bright side, the fire animation was well done as is the icon panel and health status scan. I also quite enjoyed Darwin5's lupin transformation.

 

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Sound/Music: The sound in Robinson's Requiem is ok. When there is music, it's well done. The in game sounds also set the tone for a hostile planet with gurgling water and animal noises. You also make noise when you're sick or fighting.

 

Overall: You can probably tell by now that I didn't much care for Robinson's Requiem. Anytime a player spends more than an hour walking around without encountering in-game action, it's a problem. Zarathustra was simply much too ugly and desolate to keep my interest.

 

Final Verdict: Robinson's Requiem strikes me as a game that is ambitious in concept but poor in execution. It strives to give the player a new kind of gaming experience but ultimately falls flat. This one is for the serious Jaguar collector only. If you're not a completionist, pass.

 

Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on Robinson's Requiem in the comments below! I'm particularly interested in hearing from anyone who enjoyed this or another version of the game.

 

The next game is: White Men Can't Jump
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The Jaguar was caught in the middle of a video game era when everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was hype on doing CD development containing digital videos on game consoles and within games.  Most of those games were not even worth the plastic they were printed on.  The only game I found worthy of the FMV sequences was Sonic CD on the Sega CD.  The animation was not much but opened and closed the story of the game successfully.  It left the true heart of the game for the game play aspects that Sonic was well known for.  That is the reason it was more successful than others.

 

If you were to take a look at other early CD games from the same time frame as the Jaguar you will discover piles of crap games.  Night Trap (while cool actors and actresses were involved the game play blew), Sewer Shark, Road Avenger (OK...this one was sort of cool), and even the Sherlock Holmes series, really went overkill on the CD video stuff and left very little for interactive game play.  Hell...I think the RCA CED players could have done a better game to be honest.  The only other games that even came close to Sonic CD, for me, were the Wing Commander 3 and Wing Commander 4 games on the PlayStation and computers.  I looked forward to the video sequences to move an interesting story line and plot along.  Final Fantasy 7 stepped this up a notch as did FF 8 and 9.  Only when the in-game graphics could be on par with the videos did the videos actually become important to the game play.  But that took years to overcome.  

 

So, sadly, while the Jaguar was a cool console in every aspect, it did not completely avoid the plague of FMV drenched CD based games, and this game was one of them.  I guess the developers had to learn the hard way.

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Yes. I have heard of Carl Forhan and Songbird Productions. He is based in Rochester, Minnesota, approximately 100 miles from where I live. He has done impressive work, especially with "Robinson's Requiem." I really wish, but no one would know where to begin on it, someone could complete "Black ICE/White Noise." Unfortunately, no one knows really where the original source code or master video sources in standard definition are. For all we know, they could have been lost forever. Some mook from Atari could have carelessly thrown them away! Anyway, one can dream. I am glad that we have what we have acquired so far for the Atari Jaguar, CDs and cartridges alike. I think that the Jaguar was underrated and, of course, under-marketed. Ah, what could have been…

 

Thanks for letting me share.

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