In the year 2077, the planet Venus was the new frontier for an overcrowded, exhausted, and nearly desperate Earth. Named for the roman goddess of love and beauty, this hostile world was no paradise. Colonists and explorers had to adapt to average temperatures of 900 degrees, a surface pressure of 94 atmospheres and a dense planetwide cloud cover made up of sulphuric acid. The real reason for mankind’s interest in Venus lay beneath the howling windstorms and acid clouds, under the planets jagged, parched and hellishly hot surface; a buried secret that held seemingly infinite promise.
Someone had come and gone before humans set foot on Venus. The planet was criss-crossed with tunnels carved out of the crust 500,000 years ago by a long vanished high technology society. The vanished aliens were a source of intense curiosity and hope for the twenty billion inhabitants of Earth. Wave after wave of explorers descended into the alien tunnels in search of advanced technology that might have been left behind by the so-called “Heechee”. Most of the artifacts discovered on Venus had no practical use and were little more than curiosities. The Heechee had cleaned out most of their useful technology – or so it seemed until a crotchety old tunnel explorer named Sylvester Macklin found a fully functional spacecraft in a sealed-off tunnel. Instead of reporting his find to the authorities, Macklin decided to try and figure out how to make the strange ship work. He climbed inside and began to fiddle with the controls.
Eventually Macklin found the right button. Rocket engines ignited and the ancient ship climbed out of the atmosphere of Venus on a plume of white fire. As soon as the ship was clear of the planet, the thrusters stopped and the ship disappeared into what is now known as Tau space.
When the ship returned to normal space, Macklin was delighted to find that he was still in Earth’s solar system. He was even more delighted to find himself docking with an immense Heechee artifact, a huge space station circling the sun between Venus and Mercury. Macklin’s ship parked itself inside a hangar filled with other ships of similar construction. Macklin left his ship to explore his sensational new find with a sense of awe and anticipation.
The bad news was that Macklin could not reset the guidance system of his ship and get it to go anywhere. He was stuck without food or water. He wrestled desperately with the controls as he became more hungry and thirsty. Towards the end Macklin knew that he wasn’t going home. He redirected his efforts toward a new goal…
Macklin decided that if he couldn’t go back, he could at least signal his discovery to humanity. His death would not be in vain. Macklin figured out how to detonate the fuel cells in his ship. The resulting flash was sighted by NASA and a mission was sent out to explore. The NASA mission arrived at the Heechee artifact and found hundreds of working faster-than-light Heechee starships, a priceless treasure that made the Heechee station mankind’s gateway to the stars. Thus the alien starship-parking garage earned its name: Gateway.
After a series of military confrontations and a narrowly averted war, the governments of the Major powers on Earth realized that Gateway was too valuable to be given you any one government. The governments agreed to establish a multinational corporation called Gateway Enterprises (often referred to as “The Corporation”) that would occupy Gateway and exploit the technology of the Heechee.
The FTL starships on Gateway are now used for a new form of high tech prospecting: human volunteers ride the alien ships in the hope that they will visit other worlds and bring back Heechee machines, tools and other potentially useful items. Because human scientists still don’t know how the ships guidance systems work, the destinations of these prospecting missions are unknown. For obvious reasons these missions carry an extraordinary degree of risk: 15% of prospector missions don’t come back and 80% return with little or nothing. The remaining 5% make the risks worthwhile, and can turn ordinary people into instant millionaires.
You won the local lottery on December 23. 2101. The prize was a one way ticket to gateway worth $238,575, including a limited partnership in Gateway Enterprises, transportation to gateway itself, a class in Heechee ship handling, and an invitation to go on the first available ship after graduation.
A week after you turned in your winning lottery ticket, you boarded an interplanetary ship travelling from Earth to Gateway.
It is now Wed, May 17, 2102, and you have been aboard Gateway for less than a day. You have been assigned living quarters and a proctor to show you around and get you settled in. Your first ship handling class starts later today.
You are about to become a gateway prospector.
There is something about Legend Entertainment adventures that I just really like. I first cut my teeth on the Spellcasting series (101,201,301) and had a whale of a time (although that was probably due to the *ahem* mature subject matter.)
Anyway, for those who have never seen a Legend adventure before I should probably start by saying that this is a text adventure (cue the sound of browsers being closed and Quake 3 being loaded up.) Yes a text adventure, you type in commands such as “Go west”, “Pick up gun” or “shoot reviewer in the face for making me read this crap”. IMHO this is the perfect medium for an adaptation of Pohl’s books, as it allows the story to be presented in such a way that you cannot help but be immersed.
The story? Well for those who didn’t take the time to read what I generously provided above (it only took me an hour to extract and type that, damnit) Gateway sees you cast in the role of a “Prospector”, one of the brave souls who pilots alien starships to unknown destinations in the hope of finding valuable artifacts to loot. A successful mission means fame and, more importantly, fortune, while an unsuccessful mission can mean anything form simple disappointment to agonizing death at the hands (hands?) of a huge alien insect. From this simple premise of exploring the unknown, the plot soon expands into a tale of a vastly powerful alien race hell-bent on the destruction of all sentient life (bit of a plot spoiler there.)
For the most part the puzzles in the game are excellent (especially the virtual reality ones), but I did find that on the whole they were a bit too easy. Which brings me to the game major failing, that fact that it only took me a few hours to complete it. Usually it takes a dumbass like me several days to get through a game like this (even with walkthrough in hand) so I can only conclude that the game’s difficulty level has been set WAY too low.
Apart from that it’s hard to find much wrong with the game; logical (easy) puzzles and a very good story add up to a very enjoyable game. AND the best thing of all is that the game is freeware, so you needn’t have any guilt about downloading it 🙂