2000 to One: A Space Felony is the Kubrickest game yet

See you next Wednesday!

By Christian Donlan. Published 31 July 2017

One thing I know is that you're meant to have thoughts about the films of Stanley Kubrick. Big thoughts. And of all the films of Stanley Kubrick you're meant to have big thoughts about, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the one you're meant to reserve your absolute biggest ever thoughts for. You're meant to say: look how Kubrick took a movie about aliens and turned it into a movie about God. Or: look how Kubrick is commenting on humanity's decline by making the murderous computer the only character with any emotion. Or: look how Kubrick edited plot out of the picture almost entirely, turning a Clarkian potboiler into a puzzle without a solution, a puzzle that you can then turn over in your mind forever without ever getting bored.

Well, I've made all those points over the years. I've said all those things. But deep down I was faking it. The truth is I have no big thoughts about 2001, other than this: I absolutely flippin' love it. I love it on a scale that transcends the need to understand it or even really think about it. I have no opinions about it other than that I could watch it forever, pretty much on a loop, and I have growing within my heart the indulgent, unforgivable suspicion that Kubrick made this film for me and me alone, so perfect is it, so pretty is it, so can-you-even-end-a-sentence-with-'is-it'- like-this?

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Now that's out of the way, here's something else. Somebody's made a game that's sort of about 2001. It's called 2000 to One: A Space Felony. It's sort of about 2001, and it's also sort of a murder mystery criminal proceedings game. And guess what? I love it. I love it in that same empty-headed swoony way that I love 2001.

The game is gloriously simple. You are an investigator sent to the drifting ghost ship Endowment. The crew has died and the ship's AI is firmly in the frame. In essence, the Endowment is a wonderful 3D diorama that you move around inside, taking photos of details and then presenting them to the AI, linking images together to create a narrative that reveals any inconsistencies in its own narrative of how the crew met their ends in a manner that did not involve the AI killing them.

The crew are part of the diorama. Here's a guy done-in next to the radar antenna, like Frank Poole. Here's another drifting in space, neck broken by a cord that tethers them to the ship. Here's another... actually, I don't want to spoil that one.

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Instead, let me tell you about how it looks. It looks incredible, 2001's clean, symmetrical art direction brought to life by bright, flat colours and wonderfully simple geometry. The Endowment is not quite the Discovery, but it has so many reference points in common that it's a joy to explore: there's the spinning room where you can actually walk on the floor, there's the long corridor lit by overheads that are unforgivingly sharp, there's even the pod bay with those terrifying cyclops-like pods with their claws extended towards you. If you have spent years wishing you could climb aboard the Discovery - even if that means meeting HAL - this is a fabulous thing to encounter.

Let me tell you about how it feels: man, it feels amazing. You float through this weightless world as Kubrickian classics play over the soundtrack - I can't believe he passed up the chance to use Beethoven's Seventh, with its brooding insistence on an impending disaster. You drift and occasionally bounce against a wall. You float into the AI's realm where HAL's huge red eye has become an entire dome of implacable crimson light, and - what's this? - this murderous supercomputer actually blinks. It's weirdly unnerving.

And then of course there's the reason it works: a narration that both leads you through the narrative and allows you to bridge some tricky gaps, while revelling in the kind of dark humour that I always remember being explicit in Kubrick films, but which always turns out to be deeply implied instead. If you love Kubrick, if you love spaceships, if you love narrative games that play with the form, you should...

I'm doing it again, aren't I? I'm pretending to have thoughts about this game - thoughts that go beyond the truth, which is: I flippin' love it.

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