Capsule Review: 2000:1: A Space Felony

A spiritual followup to Disorient on the Murder Express that takes the logical-connection mystery solving and accusation mechanic and tries to build a fuller and more polished game around it with mixed results.

The game casts you as an investigator sent to a spacecraft that has lost contact with Earth to determine what happened. You find the crew dead and collect evidence in the form of photographs and then work with the shipboard AI to reconstruct the chain of events, using your gathered evidence to support or refute theories as appropriate to determine whether the AI is responsible for the crew’s deaths.

The ship is impressive and easy to navigate even in zero gravity, though the spinning starfield seen when docking or when investigating the “wheelhouse” section of the ship can trigger motion sickness (it did for me). There are several areas to explore on the ship, several corpses to find, and a substantial number of clues to collect. You don’t need to find very many before you can enter the AI core and start reconstructing events, though you won’t be able to finish without all the available clues. This means you can make some progress in the discussion and then have to go back out and scour relevant areas of the ship for whatever you’re missing before you can return and continue, which I found disrupted the game’s pacing. This was especially true because the way you collect clues isn’t foolproof - you essentially take a screenshot and the game decides whether it has a clue prominent enough in the image for it to count. I took one photo of two separate clues and it only counted for one of them and I had to return later to photo the second clue; there was also something that looked like a clue that I took a photo of but it didn’t register because the object wasn’t prominent enough in my photo so I assumed it wasn’t a clue and was tripped up by this later.

The game is inconsistent tonally - while much of it comes across as dark comedy, straight-up tragedy is presented right alongside it. And while this is technically a spoiler, it is obvious right away that the AI is guilty. The game is clearly an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey down to the AI being named MAL, and the game’s intro text explicitly tasks you with determing MAL’s guilt, not just investigating the incident. This could have been setting up a subversion, but the game’s subtitle is “How I came to value my life and murder mercilessly,” which is pretty telling, and through your investigation and cross-examination you’ll quickly prove that MAL killed at least one of the crew members. At this point it’s blindingly obvious that MAL is a murderer and your life is in danger, but rather than shutting him down and reconstructing the rest of the events from his memory, you must proceed to cross-examine him until each crew member’s death is explained. This quickly drains the situation of its intrigue and the rest of the game becomes a slog. The situation isn’t helped by the large number of clues and handful of crew members with no memorable personality traits and the near-lack of UI elements for keeping track of them - even just a checklist for the crew members that get crossed off when you’ve explained each death would have helped a lot.

While the core of the mystery-solving mechanic is still strong, this game seems to have taken it in directions that haven’t improved it. The developer intends to make several more games based around this type of gameplay, so I’m hoping they improve the implementation in future titles.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.