Morningstar: Descent to Dead Rock

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Morningstar: Descent to Dead Rock Game Poster Image
Clever adventure could use more content, urgency in play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Although it's a story of teamwork and survival, there's nothing particularly positive about it. A guy exchanges banter with wounded colleague while looking for parts to fix his ship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Powell, the main character, is a bland, if fairly resourceful guy with the smarts to keep himself alive. Nothing to dislike or like about him.

Ease of Play

Point-and-click movement is as simple as it gets. Puzzles require lots of thought, ingenuity but are intuitive enough to keep players from getting stuck. Even if you do get stuck, developer offers a free walkthrough on its website.

Violence

No violence seen, but space-suited corpses frequently seen. Some have blood, some don't; ship's captain is alive but bloody, impaled on a long metal rod.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The player finds a beer during gameplay (used to solve a puzzle). Characters talk of having a beer, but drinking one is never shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Morningstar: Descent to Dead Rock is a downloadable adventure game set in space. The title shows images of the aftermath of battle and a violent spaceship crash. Although there are some startling images, such as a bloody, wounded man and about 10 bloody corpses, the game is fairly low-intensity, focusing on point-and-click exploration and puzzle solving rather than conflict. The game is designed to be challenging without being overly hard, and players who get stuck will have the option to use a full walkthrough posted on the developer's website. There's a reference to drinking a beer, but it's never shown; instead, a beer is used as a solution to a puzzle.

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What's it about?

MORNINGSTAR: DESCENT TO DEAD ROCK is about Powell and Novak, two space travelers marooned on an alien planet known only as Dead Rock. Having crashed on the planet after a mysterious storm, they discover another downed vessel and what looks like the aftermath of a violent struggle. That's all it takes to convince them their main priority is getting off Dead Rock as quickly as possible.

Is it any good?

Morningstar: Descent to Dead Rock is a slick remake of a more primitive Flash game that benefits hugely from the current 3-D upgrade. The game is played from a first-person point of view, and, although most animations are exceedingly simple, the game's environments are well-composed, textured, and lit. The music also is pretty good, with about 30 minutes of brand-new sound effects and music that improves the gameplay. This is a solid adventure game, and it offers a familiar story concept, pulling you through with intuitive puzzles, good writing, and a polished interface. It's not easy to integrate story and gameplay, and even harder to create puzzles with the right level of challenge, but events progress smoothly, and the story never gets hung up on pointless contrivances. Everything you do is logical, and though there's the occasional inventory game of "click everything on everything else," thoughtful players will know what to do and how to do it.

Descent to Dead Rock also excels in its writing. The dialogue between Powell and Novak is natural and believable (barring the occasional sitcom-like exchange), and Powell's internal monologue has the dual advantage of being intelligent and informative. Unfortunately, there are some big problems in the game. For one, there's a lack of urgency with these characters. For being involved in a dramatic fight to survive, Powell and Novak are weirdly calm. There's never any sense of urgency, and they exchange snarky banter even while Novak is mortally wounded (no spoilers here -- that's part of the introduction). Also, although the additional HD cut scenes and narrative sequences add content, users can still breeze through the game in less than two hours, making its $9.99 price tag a bit questionable. Though subdued overall, Descent to Dead Rock offers an impressive mix of exploration, dialogue, and puzzle-solving mechanics. Its stark graphics and pensive musical score make it leaps and bounds better than its 2009 incarnation, and its beauty, mystery, and sensitive presentation make you wish it were a much longer game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about space travel. If someone offered to take you into space, would you want to go?

  • Discuss the possibility of alien life. Do you think aliens really exist? If so, what do you think they're like?

  • Think about the different ways aliens are shown in the media. In general, are they more often friendly or dangerous?

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