Way back in 1994, Revolution Software released Beneath a Steel Sky, a cyberpunk point-and-click adventure game collaboration between Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil and comic artist and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons. I spent the weekend with Beyond a Steel Sky, a sequel I’ve been waiting over two and a half decades to play.
In adventure gaming circles, Beneath a Steel Sky is legendary. Released in 1994 on 15 floppy discs (or a single CD-ROM), the cyberpunk saga of Robert Foster and his robot buddy, Joey (or Ken) combined comic book visuals and masterful storytelling into one outstanding adventure. A little dark-and-gritty, a little tongue-in-cheek, it’s a feel-good sort of dystopian future. Those interested in revisiting history can grab the game for free on GOG.com.
Released on Friday for Apple Arcade and coming soon to PC and Mac, Beyond a Steel Sky once again combines the talents of Gibbons and Cecil. This time around the adventure is in 3D, with comic book-style cutscenes. Original protagonist Robert Foster returns, years after leaving the “utopian” Union City in the hands of his faithful robot companion.
Just when Robert Foster thought he was done with city life, he gets drawn back in. His peaceful life in a remote village is shattered when a robotic creature kidnaps the son of a good friend. Foster tracks the beast to the gates of Union City. In the years since he left the bustling city has grown, beautified, and become more bustling than ever. But his robot buddy is no longer in charge and kids are getting kidnapped, so it’s up to Robert to straighten out another Union City mess.
While Beyond a Steel Sky is 3D polygons instead of 2D pixels, it’s every bit the point-and-click adventure its predecessor was. When Robert arrives at the gate to Union City he discovers he has to be a citizen to enter. He finds a hacker who can give him a citizen’s identity, but her hacking tool was stolen by a bird. The bird can be lured with food, but the food is in the back of a truck guarded by a flock of angry birds (no relation). To scare the birds away he must do a favour for a child, who gives him a firecracker. Once the birds are clear he can grab the food, lure the tool-thief into a nearby electric fence, grab the tool it drops, bring it to the hacker, and get his new identity chip. You know, adventure game stuff. There’s a cool hacking interface where players can fiddle with machine logic to solve puzzles, but it doesn’t stray far from the classic formula, which is just fine.
Gameplay is a little choppy on my Apple TV 4K, probably because it’s trying to run the game in 4K. My iPad Pro is a lot smoother, letting me enjoy the fully-voiced 3D adventure without being distracted by low frame rates.
I’m betting the PC version will be super smooth and awesome, but I just couldn’t wait. Well, any longer than the 26 years I already waited.