REVIEW: Saturn 9

No beating around the bush on this one; I owe Saturn 9 (80 MSP) and developer Raoghard some serious credit. After ragging on the studios’ previous, multiplayer-only efforts, Vampire Slayer and Bulkhead (which serves as the visual inspiration / foundation for this new game), I wondered if the effort wouldn’t be better spent in crafting a single-player, adventure-minded game that combined the Sunburn Engine’s penchant for gorgeous visuals with a meatier premise.

Saturn 9 is the answer to that criticism, or perhaps the developer’s plan all along, a sci-fi horror adventure that channels Event Horizon’s hellish hallucinations, Eternal Darkness’ psychological / meta-mindfucks, and tops it off with a well done twist of Slender. Those individual ingredients all add up to a pretty good recipe, one of the strongest (and, sadly, shortest) horror adventures you’ll come across.

Given the previous games, that focused on gunplay and constantly being in combat, you might be surprised to find there is none of that in Saturn 9. While you’ll make use of a small assortment of tools (trusty flashlight, screwdriver, …a man’s hand), you won’t be killing anything. The game is all about setting a mood, be it through the excellent lighting / shadow work, or the scientists’ journal entries that catalog the ship’s slow decent into chaos (narrated to you via some very decent voice-acting). There’s no heavy story arc or much explanation in the end, but it is effective in creating a palpable unease.

Instead, your chief impediment is the ship itself, dark and cold as a tomb, locked away from the prying eyes of ‘The Company’ that sent you to investigate. Moving through the incredibly claustrophobic halls and rooms, there is some light puzzle work to be done (almost entirely in spotting clues for the various password-locked computers) that’s also completely optional if you prefer to cheat your way to open doors.

Saturn 9 - Screen

Through some scares and cleverly-done hallucinations (that I won’t spoil), you’ll eventually wind your way down to the cargo hold of the ship. The final act of the game is a tense showdown with the menace aboard the station, though it’s not a fight, but flight, as you gather up the data (all Slender-like) you were sent to collect and make your escape. The game will last you just under an hour, but that hour, preferably spent alone in the dark, is well worth it.

It’s light on puzzles, difficulty, and playtime, but Saturn 9 is a very pleasant surprise, one of the best ‘cerebral horror’ adventures you’re likely to find on the indie channel. If there is a sequel or expansion that continues in this style of storytelling, I will definitely be the first in line to play it. Easily recommended.

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17 thoughts on “REVIEW: Saturn 9”

  1. Your review has got me feeling curious about this – Saturn 9 has some lovely visuals, and the voice acting in the video sounds professional – a hint of what is to come. Will buy.

    1. I’d say it’s good, so long as you recognize it as being a bit compact and short. Were it a little longer, I’d probably be considering it for the leaderboard. Your curiosity will be rewarded. 🙂

  2. I downloaded the demo yesterday and then bought the game (could not wait for review plus I liked the 30 seconds demo). Its great I not wasted that dollar!!! I will only to play this at night so, this one will take priority. I now have like 22 XBlig to beat (only beat like 3). And like 5 retails that I dont even play, I just got addicted to that 80 price tag. Btw do you take petitions, theres is a game that got my attention for a while “Mithra Episode One”, (its look very good) the demo dont help me much, and worst of all ITS COST THREE BUCKS!!! Im not milionaire, so, is hard to take a chance on that one.

    1. The good news is that it should only take you that night to beat it. 🙂

      I only take requests for games released in the last month or so, so the site stays as current as possible. Even then, it’s based on whether I have the time / MS points. ‘Mithra’ looks interesting, for sure. Released a while ago. Sounds like it was meant to be a 5-part game, but only the first was released. Almost a 4-star rating, though, so a lot of people thought it was decent enough. 240 gives me some pause, but I’d say to give it a go if you like the demo.

      You’re like me, having a huge pile of games to work through, so maybe you’re better off waiting until you’ve played / beaten some of the games you’ve got waiting. I never take my own advice, though. 🙂

    2. Well in that case I am going to suggest you give One Finger Death Punch a go. It’s a Silver Dollar game but this one was a major surprise to me. It just came out today and blew me away with with is game play. Curious what you think.

    3. Trendy Gamers is nice, but I link myself! : https://thexblig.com/2012/08/31/didnt-see-that-coming-dream-build-play-winners/

      Also, Ninja Crash, if you need a review: https://thexblig.com/2012/10/20/review-ninja-crash/ 🙂

      Been waiting on OFDP for awhile. Wanted to do a proper preview article, but Silver Dollar never seemed to have a solid release date set (until very recently). They’ve had plenty of build-up to it as well, posting trailers every other day / week it seemed, so my article wouldn’t have been informing much.

      Been playing it tonight, in between watching the Blackhawks take the Stanley Cup, so a review will be inbound, probably Wednesday. Will be positive, to say the least. Looks like I’ll be clearing some space on the leaderboard for it. 🙂

    4. NICE! Thanks for the internal links. Man I need to go through all your stuff since obviously I haven’t seen it all.

    5. Honestly, I just got lucky. 🙂 One of the few times I have relevant links to two queries in a row. I don’t focus on news items here too much, so that’s a rarity. Won’t happen again, I assure you.

    6. I played the demo of that One Finger yesterday night, it was amazing!!! I feel like I was playing an Xbox One game with the infite power of the cloud!!! Very fast, Im going to buy it anyway (Its hard to follow the Tim advice)but yeah will like to see what he has to say about that one.

    7. I definitely would put one finger death punch on my list of fav indie games this year besides BLOOD & BACON of course, Im almost at the end of master mode, intense reflexes required.

  3. So just last night I downloaded the demo to this game. After playing the very short trial of the game I almost purchased it but I have this self imposed rule of trying a trial a few times before dropping down the MSP on the game. Well in this case, that wouldn’t have given me any more idea on the game so I took to the web to find what others might be saying about it.

    I avoided YouTube because I didn’t want to see anything that might spoil the game for me. I only found one review and their only complaint on it was it only lasted them 30 mins. The whole time I am searching I was hoping that you would review it. And I’m so happy you did!

    There was a part of this game that reminded me of the game Dead Space and as you mentioned the movie Event Horizon. The trial didn’t give me any indication it was like Slender however but both reviews mentioning this must mean as the game plays out it take on that feel. The trial doesn’t give you any scares and maybe they should look at changing that although it did set the mood very well.

    Well, I am off today, so I am going to have to play this tonight after it gets dark . I will be buying it on the recommendations of yours and the others review. For reference, if you are interested, I included the link here to read it. http://www.xblaratings.com/xblig-list/54-action-a-adventure/6583-saturn-9

    1. Thanks! Sounds like they had the same thoughts as me, pretty much. Their guess on time (30 mins.) is probably more accurate than mine. I go on the high end, to take account for slower players. If you don’t cheat and look at the in-game help or watch videos, you should probably hit 30-40 mins. It’s not that long, and unless you really enjoyed it (I went through the game twice, just for kicks), you probably won’t have any reason to return to it after that first run.

      Even so, really surprising and well-done game. Very atmospheric. Little bit of Dead Space, as you said, and the other games / movie. You’re wise to avoid YouTube, as there are a few scares that’ll lose their impact if you know about them beforehand. The Slender bit comes in at the very end of the game, and that I felt fine in mentioning, as being stalked by a creature is creepy enough, even when you know it’s coming. 🙂

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