I think we can agree at this point, colonising space isn’t worth it. Here are the necessary steps; pick a place to go, send people to see if it’s any good if they say it’s okay then send more people. Here’s the issue with that, whenever you send a small crew of people into the furthest reaches of unexplored space, unavoidably a monster will happen and un-alive said crew. Alongside death and taxes, this is guaranteed. The Outpost Nine is a visual novel/point and click adventure game centred around one such mistake.
The Outpost Nine is about nine people in an outpost. There, we can all go home now. For real, it’s a sci-fi story about the advanced crew of a mining facility who are tasked with getting the place ready for when the main crew arrive. The cast is diverse both personally and professionally. We’re told early on that the full crew will be arriving in two weeks, which feels important to the plot. Speaking of plot, right now the first two episodes are available. Further episodes are forthcoming so stay tuned.
The first thing of major note in The Outpost Nine is the visual style. The game is a treat to take in, it plays entirely within one of those 70’s sci-fi CRT screens that Alien fans will appreciate. One particularly fine detail is the colourful, way-too-friendly splash screens when you start up a computer or datapad. That’s the kind of detail that makes an aesthetic work, and it works here.
This kind of game begs for good writing. While I would not call the writing here a bad effort at all, there are issues. There are more than a few spelling and grammatical errors, and in a game that is not voiced this can be distracting. The game is heavily inspired by films from the 70’s and 80’s, including it’s approach to characterization. I respect the effort to make the cast diverse, the choice of language is mostly fine but there are moments when certain words or phrases are used that really need a skilled writer to pull off. This isn’t a prominent issue throughout the game, but it’s pretty jarring in the moment.
Probably the most notable issue of characterization is Hart, a burly security type. His accent is implied to use a lot of “ah” instead of “I”, my best guess is he’s meant to be Southern American, I can’t say for sure. The issue here is sort of a “show don’t tell” scenario. Implying a certain cadence or speech pattern in the written word isn’t easy, but phonetically spelling out the sounds a person makes isn’t the way to do it.
Where The Outpost Nine shines is in tone. The game is at its core is a horror. Through the tone, the presentation and the sound design the game is legitimately creepy. The game transitions between a text adventure and graphic novel, meaning at different times you have more or less control over the game. While the game is short, the change of agency does add to the unsettling nature. The strength of horror games has always been putting the player in control. The Outpost Nine plays with that convention, giving and taking control while keeping to that CRT interface.
If you’re a fan of the aesthetic, you like a bit of sci-fi horror and you fancy a quick spook then you won’t go wrong with The Outpost Nine. For a game made by a single person and on sale for less than the price of a pint, it really is quite good. I may have my criticisms but this game is quite the effort and well put together all things considered. It presents itself better than anything in its price range and that does deserve praise. I recommend it and genuinely look forward to playing the remainder of the story.