There were some odd games on the Nintendo 64. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon was the weirdest, but Space Station Silicon Valley is right up there as well – in a lovely sort of way.
The player controls a crawling microchip called Evo in the year 3000 as it tries to wrest back control of an animal sanctuary lost in space. Indeed. Oh, well… read on, then!
Space Station Silicon Valley
That was in the early days of the Nintendo 64‘s life – before it had even launched, but the team had intended the game for other platforms.
But on discovering Nintendo’s hardware offered greater opportunities than Sony and Sega’s, they went for the upcoming console.
It did eventually launch on the PlayStation, but critics hammered it as one of the laziest ports in history (to be fair to the original dev team, they had little to do with it).
Okay, more on the plot – in the year of 2001, space station Silicon Valley is launched into space with a cargo of animals on it. It goes AWOL almost immediately, leading to various rescue missions. They all fail.
Cut to the year 3000 and Dan Danger and his robot buddy Evo happen upon the ship. They crash land, Dan gets stuck, Evo is partially demolished, and as a microship the latter must head out to save the day.
It’s a similar plot, now we think about it, to the recent indie romp Gato Roboto.
On the space station, Evo soon finds the animals have all evolved into robotic hybrids. Every one you come across (and this is where things get a bit nasty), you can kill and inhabit its body.
This is all done in a rather darkly comical fashion, as the game is sprinkled with a lot of black humour and satire. Complementing that is the jazzy, funky soundtrack from composer Stuart Ross.
The fundamental game structure involves every animal you meet. It has a unique ability, which helps you to solve levels and work towards freeing Dan Danger and fixing your ship.
It’s really an innovative mishmash of genres – puzzle solving, platforming, and action adventure to boot.
And it’s good fun to play! In 1998, it met with strong reviews but, unfortunately, was something of a commercial flop.
DMA Design blamed this on its release around the time of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That sure didn’t help, but we can’t help but think Space Station Silicon Valley was a little too weird to ever reach a wider audience.
The big appeal to the game remains with the wide range of animals available.
For instance, you can use a fox with turbocharged wheels for super speeds. Of course, the tricky bit is wiping out the fox.
So there’s a strategic element of seeing the answer to solving the next puzzle, but you need the bravery and skill to use, say, a penguin to wipe out the fox.
Other animals include a steam-powered hippo, lumbering bear, sheep that can jump high, and loveable little penguins. The latter aren’t very effective for anything, but they look cute as they bumble about.
If you think it all looks cute or weird enough to give a whirl, hunt down a copy on eBay. It’s still got some impressive ideas.