An amusing cyber psychic adventure game

In 2026, 114 years after it sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the RMS Titanic mysteriously reappeared in the churning sky above Tokyo, and the talented women of the AMP (that’s Attacked Mystification Police Department) were called in to investigate.

Surprisingly Silent Möbius: Case: Titanic‘s supremely supernatural setup – playable on PC-98, FM-Towns, X68000, Windows, and yes, even the good old PlayStation – does make the effort to do more with its chosen doomed location than simply borrow the name of the boat from that Celine Dion song. The dates and timings are pretty accurate, the captain is correctly named as Captain Smith, and visually both the exterior and interior greatly resemble official photographs and drawings of the infamous White Star Line passenger liner, even going so far as to recreate the ship’s famous grand staircase in a modestly sized viewing window on the screen. Case: Titanic isn’t so caught up in history that you’re in any danger of actually learning something about the vessel or the many people who died on it, but the lavish setting is without a doubt treated as much more than a conveniently tragic prop.

So where do you, the player, fit into all this? In this adventure you play the role of a besuited (and player-named) Titanic expert, here to co-star with Silent Möbius’ cast of demon-bashing ladies for one entertaining mission before getting shoved back into the moderately less spooky world of academia by the ending and never spoken of again. Normally this sort of plot device is an easy excuse for some shameless self-insert behaviour, the player a conveniently faceless whoever that everyone else instantly respects even though the non-character in question says little and does even less – and to be fair to those other games that’s not entirely dissimilar to how events unfold here. Part of the ending involves getting a (plot relevant, honest) kiss off Katsumi, and there are also a couple of unmissable scenes where she “just so happens” to be seen in her underwear, but at least Case: Titanic does a better job of masking this “fan amongst the fan service” pandering than most: The plot plays up your status as an expert on the ship, and there are many times where “you” are not only visibly in awe of your surroundings but say so too, nerding your little heart out while standing on a potentially deadly ghost ship floating in the sky. The rest of the cast will also often talk to each other rather than to you, and while your avatar’s historical knowledge is useful you are clearly not in charge, you are not capable of dealing with any of the demons and spirits you encounter during your adventure, and you’re not the cast’s new best friend either: they’ll disagree with you, have a laugh at your expense, and remind you on several occasions that you’re here to work, not fawn over the furnishings.

With that problem out of the way we soon run into another: The size of the cast. There are five members of the AMP in the game, one chatty “you”, and a selection of important ghosts and spirits on top – and when a game’s sold on the understanding that customers will want to see their pre-existing favourite do or say something impressive that’s a lot of characters who need to pass comment on everything to keep as many people as possible happy. To get around this issue everyone soon agrees to permanently split into two groups: There’s you, Kasumi, and one other AMP member of your choice with the others radioing in from time to time to pass on valuable information, appearing to save your lives when you find yourself caught in a fraught weaponless battle against a demon, and for the game’s finale. It’s a brilliant way of making you believe you’re one crucial part of an investigative whole without bogging the game down with five people uttering slight variations of the same response all the time.

Your small team are given a lot of freedom to wander very early on, and for once that doesn’t mean you end up wasting precious adventure gaming time lost at sea. As interlopers walking around a well-staffed ship with plenty of smartly-dressed servants and regular crew on hand to ask exactly who you are and what you’re doing there are plenty of places you’re initially barred from entering due to your group’s “strange” attire, gender, or lack of appropriate paperwork, which in turn helpfully restricts your initial investigative efforts to a limited number of relevant locations. To help you keep your bearings across the Titanic’s ten possible levels – each containing multiple points of interest – the game includes an interactive map of the ship in the “System” menu that updates every time you successfully enter a new area: Want to go back to the bar, restaurant, or second class smoking room and can’t remember which floor they were on? Just check the map – although you’ll probably not need to. When the characters are having plot-related conversations they’ll often say something along the lines of:
“A Titanic library stamp…”
“The library’s on the 4th floor.”

A little awkward? Sure. But this is the sort of awkwardness you hope to see in an adventure game, the awkwardness that shows someone on the development team worried players might not remember where they needed to go and then cared enough to pepper the script with metaphorical safety nets like the above just in case. Further considerations for your time and patience include streamlined dialogue and interaction options, saving you from desperately wondering if “Search” will bring up something “Look” didn’t or asking all and sundry about a significant event or every item within your infinite and automatically handled inventory just on the off chance asking a mail-sorter about a spoon was the one weird thing that triggered the next event.

Case: Titanic’s story-triggered battles use a very similar menu driven system to the rest of the game, asking before each turn if you’d like to manually decide what each member of the team’s going to do (your Titanic fan sits these out bar the odd “Ouch!” reaction), or if you’d prefer to pick from one of three auto battle settings – standard, graviton (a powerful demon-defeating attack… if it hits), or magical. It’s a simple system and deliberately so, intended to be an exciting spectacle rather than an actual fight with all of the worries about health, reloads, and character statistics that go with them. And what a spectacle it is: Animations (animations!) vary depending on whether a character is casting a spell or firing one of two specific guns, enemies visibly slouch and crumble as the AMP wears them down, and the text does a fantastic job of getting you all caught up in the moment; characters shouting out things like “Everyone, stand back!” before using a spell, “Damn you!” as they attack, or even calling out to their partner. Monsters are equally talkative too; taunting, teasing, and obviously enjoying the thought of defeating you before they get down to grisly business. These scenes may ultimately be superfluous, but they also never spoil the pace or tone of the rest of the game, and you never find yourself inwardly sighing when the battle music kicks in.

Case: Titanic also deserves praise for something a little unusual: It’s data organisation. Boring right?

…OK, right. But when something like this is handled badly it can make a game virtually unplayable, especially one spread across seven beautiful floppy discs like this gorgeous PC-98 adventure is, so it’s important to take the time to praise a game that does it well. They way it works here is that each disc contains two complete levels of the Titanic, with the data arranged in a linear, logical order. So this means if you need to go somewhere on the first or second decks then you need to put disc two in the second drive (disc one is your main/program disc, and happily sits in the first drive all adventure long), if you need to investigate the third of fourth decks you put in disc three in the second drive, and so on. The final disc is reserved for the entire end sequence – battles, event sequences, credit scroll and all – and by doing so Case: Titanic ensures you can concentrate on nothing but playing the ending through from the dramatic final twist to the last copyright notice in one smooth sweep instead of being made to swap discs at a climax-spoiling moment. And that conclusion – something anyone engaged with the game can expect to see within a solid day’s play – is a satisfying and sensitive end to an enjoyable mystery. You can only come away from the game feeling the AMP have been done proud – and your wallet too, seeing as the PC-98 version of the game is now available to buy on Project EGG.

[Ko-fi supporters read this a week ago! Why not join them?]

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