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Space Station Silicon Valley Nintendo 64 Review


Space Station Silicon Valley was originally going to be launch title for the Nintendo 64 in 1996, but was delayed many times until eventually coming out in October of 1998. The game was developed by DNA and published by Take 2, who both went on to make the famous and successful Grand Theft Auto games. In the game you play as a disembodied robot, who must take control of the body's of robot animals he defeats in order to survive, solve puzzles and get through the games levels. Space Station Silicon Valley is unusual action game that most will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of.

In the future scientists want to study how animals interact with each other. One crazy scientist decides to build a giant space station and fill it with robot animals and then see how they get along. Shortly after launching all contact from the space station ceases, and it disappears.  Then after 1000 years the space station mysteriously returns and is on a collision course with Earth, which could wipe out most of the planet. Would be hero Dan Danger and his robot sidekick Evo are hired to stop the space station and solve the mystery of its missing crew. Things go array and Dan Danger's ship crash lands into the space station. In the crash Evo's body is destroyed and Dan Danger is trapped or perhaps just unwilling to leave the wreckage of the ship. Luckily Evo's brain chip survives and he can use it to hijack the body of any defeated robot animal and gain control of their powers and abilities. It turns out that the robot animals of the space station have become sentient, evolved and overthrew the human crew and are now in control of the station. It's now up to Evo to finish the mission by frequently switching bodies in order to stop the space station from crashing into the Earth.

The space station and the game is spread out over four environments, forest, tundra, Jungle and desert. Your goal in the game's 38 levels is to complete each stages often arbitrary objectives so you can activate the teleporter at the end of the level and move on to the next area. The games spans a wide range of genres and gameplay including action, puzzle solving, platforming and racing. Usually it's best to start a level by surveying the area and figuring out what the most difficult part will be, usually combat with a bigger animal. After killing the stages big kunhuna animal you might want to mop up the rest of the weaker, less dangerous animals or move on to completing the rest of the stage's objectives. Doing most difficult task in a stage first is important since there are no checkpoints during levels, so if you die to do everything over again, including collecting power cells and the souvenir. Objectives range from using your new animal to reach a previously inaccessible area by some light platforming, using the right animal in the correct spot to flip a switch or trigger a mini game such as racing or solving a random puzzle within the level. Each level also has 10 power cells to rebuild Evo's damaged robot body and one souvenir. Power cells are often hard to find and in dangerous locations which seem to unnecessarily lengthen the game's stages. Collecting the souvenir usually involves solving a puzzle in the corner of the map and are used to unlock a horizontal shooter mini game, but due to a glitch on the Fat Bear Mountain stage it is impossible to collect all the souvenirs and unlock the mini game without using codes.

One weird thing about the game is that many people report that that the game will not work with Nintendo 64's that have the expansion pack installed. However I bought the game new in 1998 and always played in on a expansion pack equipped system and experienced any problems. Therefore I theorize that the incompatibility  issue relates to the games save data, and people affected by this should erase all saved data on the game cartridge on a system with the jump pack installed and then attempt to play the game on a system the expansion pack installed and see if that works. Regardless due to the game's poor sales a fixed version was never released and there was never a recall. So be sure when buying the game used that you have a N64 jump pack around, just in case.

Due to the game's disappointing sales it was later ported in the year 2000 to the original  PlayStation and the Game Boy Color, but only in Europe. The PlayStation version has supposedly worse,  more pixilated graphics and a different soundtrack. It also was retitled Evo's Space Adventure. I'm not able to play the PlayStation version despite owning it since it only runs on Pal format televisions. The Game Boy Color version is 2D, yet oddly maintains much of the same premises and puzzles of the N64 version. Unfortunately bad controls and vague objectives make it vastly inferior to the other versions.

The function of the A and B buttons depend on what animal or character your using, but usually A is jump or if you're using a racing animal speed boost, and B is attack or sometimes the animal will make a noise. The C buttons shift the camera. The Z button switches the camera to first person perspective. The L button switches the camera to second person over the shoulder perspective. The R button will eject Evo's brain chip from its current body, and if near a new animal, it will switch control to that one instead.

The graphics in the game are a little bland. Levels are mostly barren with few decorations. Texture work is rather blurry as is often the case with N64 games, but colors are bright and cheerful. The character modeling though consistent  seems to have a minimalist design, which doesn't make you want to switch animals as much as you should. Since the game was originally suppose to come out shortly after the Nintendo 64's release, it's understandable that the graphics aren't that great but not totally forgiven.

Music is simple but greatly composed. Styles range from cheery to haunting fitting the atmosphere and setting the mood for the levels. The music is very memorable. The sound effects the animals make are cute at first, but the lack of variety can make them get annoying after a while. Weapon and racing sound effects are great however. The is no spoken dialogue in the game, instead talking characters make repetitive mumbled sound effects like in Banjo Kazooie or Rayman games. Luckily there isn't much dialogue in the game, but still voice acting would have been nice and probably would have made the games many  jokes more funny.

If you give the game a chance and have a open mind and play through at least four of the game's stages you might discover the true beauty of this hidden gem, or you might still hate it. Such is the curse Space Station Silicon Valley has for being a love it or hate it kind of game. Fans love the great music, varied gameplay, humor and  wonderfully designed levels. Critics hate the subpar graphics, high difficulty, repetitive sound effects, and vague "You have to know what to do in advance" puzzles. Still if you're a fan of action platformers and have a N64 I would definitely recommend at least trying out Space Station Silicon Valley since it is such a unique experience. Although personally to me the game is a 8/10, most will find the game to be a 7/10.



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