Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered Review

Setting a new benchmark for adventure games on the iPhone, Beneath a Steel Sky retains all of its original charm while subtly updating itself for its new format.

The appearance of Beneath a Steel Sky on the iPhone is something of a paradox. Here, we have a game that's 15 years old but is set in the future, featured on a device that wouldn't look at all out of place in its own sci-fi setting. This updated edition features both remastered audio and a comic-book-style introduction lifted straight from the original game's manual. Beneath a Steel Sky fits the iPhone perfectly--its point-and-click gameplay merges seamlessly with touch-screen controls for adventuring on the go.

This classic adventure game is set in a futuristic version of Australia.
This classic adventure game is set in a futuristic version of Australia.

In some ways, Beneath a Steel Sky seems just as relevant now as it did in 1994. The game takes place in a bleak future version of our world oppressed by fascist corporations, and you play as Robert Foster, a man who has grown up away from the city, in the wilderness (known in the game as "the Gap"). At the start of the game, Foster has returned to the city and is on the run from the authorities.

Like in many adventure games, there's a mystery or two afoot in this one. Beneath a Steel Sky has lost none of its charm over the years, managing to combine step-by-step puzzle solving with a sense of humor not often seen in newer games. The game takes place in a beautifully animated 2D world in which you interact with various objects and talk to different characters to uncover clues and gather information. The game's endlessly witty script and fixation with folks absorbed in their own worlds set it apart from the crowd.

You explore this world by slowly moving your finger around the screen. Objects you can interact with are marked with blue circles, and tapping on them lets you either examine or use them. It's also possible to combine anything in your inventory with the game's architecture by pressing down on the item and then dragging it to wherever you need it. It's surprisingly simple and works quite well.

That's because Beneath a Steel Sky is much more a game of thinking, rather than of running or jumping. Even the simplest of its puzzles can stump you for a good long while. Perhaps as a sign of the times, this remastered edition does come with a tips system. An in-game menu marks off your next goal and even offers a series of clues and directions, without going into too much detail at first. It's a feature that might antagonize some of Steel Sky's hardened fan base, but one perfectly pitched at the iPhone generation. It also serves as the perfect example of how to bring an established classic to the App Store while enhancing, rather than altering, its original form.

This remastered version features new cutscenes by Dave Gibbons, cocreator of Watchmen.
This remastered version features new cutscenes by Dave Gibbons, cocreator of Watchmen.

However, Beneath a Steel Sky never stops feeling like a series of paradoxes. Though full of gadgets and gizmos that could exist only in a far-flung future, this is an adventure with plenty of subtle nods to troubles past. Yet despite its sober setting, the game comes with a script full of laughs and lighter moments, and even the most inconsequential of conversations will raise a smile or hint at each character's own little universe.

These are traits that have, until now, seemed out of reach for many iPhone adventure games. Beneath a Steel Sky somehow feels bigger and bolder than its rivals, raising the bar and highlighting what others have so far failed to achieve. Perfectly suited to its new home, this remastering of a classic game serves up point-and-click play nearly unmatched on the App Store.

This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner

The Good

  • Top-notch animation and script
  • Excellent puzzles
  • Touch controls work almost perfectly with interface.

The Bad

  • New tips system may upset fan base that figured it out for themselves the first time.

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