Originally promised to have regular updates alongside each week’s episode, the Red Dwarf mobile game has only recently received the Samsara content, months after the game launched alongside the Twentica episode.
The gameplay in Twentica was frankly atrocious, as explained in the initial review. Some of the issues mentioned were addressed in updates over the following weeks but the game remained deeply unsatisfying for the most part.
Nevermind, Samsara is a fresh slate for the game, a chance to make something fans will enjoy. A chance they have once again squandered.
(If you’ve not seen Samsara there may be some very minor spoilers in what follows. You should have watched by now though, it’s been months!)
As in Twentica, the crew has again found a thing in space that bears investigation. This time, an escape pod with two lifeforms aboard. The first section of the game has you controlling the pod, dodging stationary and slow moving asteroids in an effort to reach Red Dwarf. The controls are similar to those of the truck driving segment in the first episode, where a tap-and-hold will accelerate the pod and swiping left or right will move the pod across the screen. Along the way the two characters inside the pod will spout some humorous lines and eventually the pod will arrive at Red Dwarf. No awkward sticking points, as with the truck, though there aren’t any health packs available at time of writing. These were added in a later update to Twentica, but aren’t as needed for this much easier section.
Next, piloting Starbug again. This time you can move up/down/left/right by holding and moving your finger around on the left of Starbug and shoot by tapping to the right. You’ll want to use two hands for that as you’ll be flying through caverns in an asteroid and it gets a little hairy. It’s reminiscent of the underground sections in the podracing track featured in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. But with cheesier acting and dialogue, naturally.
This is followed by the first potentially challenging portion of the game – Rimmer trivia! In order to bypass a security lockdown Rimmer needs to reset his JMC password, so you’ll need to answer his security questions. If you’ve seen every season of the show and/or read all the books this shouldn’t be hard. If you’re a casual fan you may be stuck for a while trying to fill in the blanks. The questions are the same each time so it may be possible to look these answers up, if you have an internet.
Regardless, passing the security door will allow Lister to roam the corridors, dodging electrical arcs and toxic clouds much as Rimmer was doing in Twentica. The health packs that were added to Twentica’s corridors aren’t present here, but the section is not terribly long and thus only annoying by virtue of being yet another repeated section.
… speaking of repeated sections, you’ll be running down the corridors again for the next bit, this time as one of the characters from the escape pod. You’re trying to avoid being spotted by crewmates as the activity you’re engaged in is, well, best kept secret. Let’s leave it at that. Rather than a health meter you’re given a certain amount of “stealthiness”, beyond which you’ll be sprung. The random crew you need to sneak past are mostly wandering in predictable patterns. They can only see you in a 90 degree arc directly in front of them and nobody can see more than about 2 metres in front of their nose. There’s no way to regain stealthiness once lost, but there’s no time limit on the mission. Take it slower if you fail the first time!
And now, the best bit of this episode of the game – Cat Logic! The Cat is not particularly smart, in spite of the rest of the crew’s best efforts. Having been raised on the handed down knowledge of the Cat civilisation he often almost gets things right, but not quite. And this quiz plays off that fact, with Cat trying to state things he believes are facts and you, as Lister, trying to accurately correct him, picking in-character answers from a selection of lines. It starts with that inventor-y guy, name starts with R – Archimedes, naturally. It goes hilariously downhill from there.
Sadly, it’s back to the land of terrible design after that, with a section requiring you reprogram a computer by playing a memory game. Sort of like Simon, if it was created by a horrible, horrible person.
Usually such pattern memorising games start out with short sequences, like Star-Moon-Star. If the player gets that correct it adds another button to the sequence, maybe Star-Moon-Star-Lightning. Get it right again, Star-Moon-Star-Lightning-Lightning. Etc. Really good players will get into a rhythm and knock out a string a dozen or more long.
Red Dwarf’s version doesn’t do that. If you successfully complete the first sequence you’re shown, the second will be completely different. Then the third will be something else again. By the end you have to remember 7 or 8 symbol strings that are unique every time you have to start over. In the first half you’re only dealing with four symbols, but the second half has eight. If you can get to the second half you get to start over from there if (when) you fail too many times.
With the exception of pseudo-chatting with Cat, Samsara was another very disappointing experience. Much of it is essentially the same as the first episode and it wasn’t any good then.
At least the price has dropped. After starting at $3.99 the iOS version is now only $1.99 and the Google Play store has it at $1.29, in Australian money. That’s not to say you should spend any of your Australian money on this. You still shouldn’t.