"Rather than trying to find all the cheese nuggets on a mountain, or all the geepeepaboos, you are instead trying to reassemble your ship. Though this may sound like just another fetch quest, it feels like so much more thanks to intuitive execution. You don't just bounce merrily up the side of a hill, or ride an ostrich, or put on the magical cape and feather hat. In fact, such tasks would be nearly impossible for you, since your form is roughly equivalent to a waffle maker with legs."
Near the start of Space Station: Silicon Valley for the Nintendo 64, two animals are nearing one another in a romantic interlude filled with hints of forbidden love. Suddenly, a rocket crashes out of nowhere and kills one of them. ''Roger!'' bleets a heart-broken sheep. You can almost see the tears drifting down her face, yet you don't care because you're laughing too hard. It's this sort of humor that we've come to expect from DMA, a developer somehow related to the Grand Theft Auto games. I don't understand the connection, and there are times I don't even understand the game itself. But I do know it's fun, and I do know I'm anxious to tell you all about it. I guess that's all that matters in the end.
I mentioned that the people behind this game also made Grand Theft Auto. I believe Grand Theft Auto 3, the game that propelled them to the fame we all dream of, was their successor to Space Station: Silicon Valley. However, you'd be a world class idiot if you're expecting a lot of parallels between the two. In all honesty, Silicon Valley feels more like Banjo-Kazooie (or one of Rare's other N64 platformers) than it does a trip through the gritty world of car-jacking.
This likely has a great deal to do with the chosen environments, which seem to be little islands cast adrift in space. You'll see green hills, asteroids, snowy fields, marshes, and large patches of ocean. There's not a one of these locations that looks much beyond 'passable.' You get a general sense of where you are, and it's all three-dimensional with the proper dimensions and such. But it's obvious DMA wasn't striving for realism, as there's a cartoony nature to everything from the menus to the game's introduction to the environments themselves. A lot of times, it feels like each stage (excluding the underwater ones) is a bunch of giant popcorn, with green grass or white snow laid over it for effect.
Those environments work just great because they keep things light and fluffy. That's important when your goal in a game is so odd as it is in Silicon Valley. Rather than trying to find all the cheese nuggets on a mountain, or all the geepeepaboos, you are instead trying to reassemble your ship. Though this may sound like just another fetch quest, it feels like so much more thanks to intuitive execution. You don't just bounce merrily up the side of a hill, or ride an ostrich, or put on the magical cape and feather hat. In fact, such tasks would be nearly impossible for you, since your form is roughly equivalent to a waffle maker with legs. You are in fact a piece of a robot of some sort, and the only way you can effectively move through the silly worlds is to steal rides.
But wait, you say. This sounds like Grand Theft Auto 3. Did I lie near the start of the review? No, I did not. There's not a motorcycle in sight, nor are there tanks or trucks. Instead, you take over the bodies of the numerous animals scattered throughout each region. Need to get through that small hole so you can reach the magical keyboard? Just snag a ride on a flatulent rat. Or if you're herding sheep, you can always take over the body of a wolf to nip at their heels and chase them into a corral, or you can even take over a sheep itself. Before you can hop into the desired animal, it must be unconscious.
Due to this simplistic concept, Silicon Valley suddenly turns into a truly innovative and enjoyable romp. You're given a task and you have to perform it if you want to advance, but the developers leave such a variety of paths open to you that the game doesn't grow redundant nearly so quickly as you might suspect. Not only that, but there are optional side games you can play for amusement. These aren't all that great, mostly just races around the environments that are somewhat frustrating, but at least they were included for the sake of variety.
Still, the majority of your enjoyment from the game will come from the animals. You'll spend most of your time figuring out how the various critters hold the key to your progression. Often, it can feel like you're in the middle of a puzzle game of sorts. You really have to get a feel for the different abilities each animal possesses, and the number of ways you can use that to your advantage. Then you realize you're wondering if the rat's farts have any advantages, and suddenly you're smiling all over again.
Even with such a dynamic system, though, the game could have faltered dramatically if camera and controls sucked. The good news is that the camera is quite good. It rotates perfectly at the press of a button, and you will almost never find yourself raging against the viewpoint and blaming it for a death (except perhaps in the infrequent underwater stages). The bad news is that some of the animals don't move nearly so fluidly as you'll probably hope for. While the sheep and rats of the game respond quickly and give no trouble, some of the larger beasts feel awkward. This is seldom a big issue, but the swimming levels can quickly grate on one's nerves.
Of course, water stages suck in almost any platformer you'd care to name. And since their absence here would have made the game feel uneven, I'm willing to forgive a few rough moments in exchange for a chance to play this game. Even though it never won any awards, even though so many people ignored it that it slid to the bottom of bargain bins and then drifted out of sight, I can't help but recommend Space Station: Silicon Valley as a terrific way to spend a lazy afternoon. Give it a shot.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
If you enjoyed this Space Station: Silicon Valley review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!