In this series, I plan to wax nostalgic about the more obscure games I played growing up and hopefully introduce some of you to new gaming experiences with old games.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time
Developed by CyberFlix
Published by GTE Entertainment
PC & Mac, 1996
When I was around 11 years old, my parents divorced and my dad met someone new. She had a daughter roughly a year older than me who, initially, I really struggled to get along with. After time to adjust to the situation, we ended up becoming pretty good friends, and one of the ways we bonded was through a very interesting video game with a wild premise, based on altering several historical events most of us learn about in school.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time is a point-and-click adventure game that takes place on… you guessed it, the RMS Titanic! You play as a former British spy who is sent back in time to the Titanic to attempt to prevent World Wars I & II and the Russian Revolution. You explore the ship to find certain items and information crucial to this mission. I know. This sounds crazy. It is crazy. By finding and obtaining these items and changing whose hands they end up in, you can alter the series of events that lead to the three historical periods listed above. Or you can fail and change nothing at all. Also, somehow the London Blitz sends you back in time. Don’t ask me, I don’t know.
I watched my step-sister play this game a lot before I finally played through it on my own. Part of exploring the ship and finding what you need is interacting with both passengers and crew. You do so through multiple-choice prompts after engaging them in conversation. These prompts can be tricky, because it’s possible to upset a character and no longer get information or help from them without first doing something else. The characters are played by real actors, though it’s not a true FMV game — they’re various layered photos taken of the actors instead of video that create emotive animations as the characters speak.
The most challenging part of the game is the puzzles. Often, they require information from people or clues around the ship. You can encounter a puzzle but not have the information required to help solve it, and sometimes that can really mess things up. The beautiful thing about this game, you see, is that there are multiple endings. It’s possible to accomplish certain parts of the mission while failing others and still make it to the end. (As a side note, one of the important items you search for on the ship is Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a book I actually encountered an old copy of once in a book store and immediately bought specifically because of its association with this game.)
Those of you who have seen the 1997 film Titanic will recognize the above screenshot: it’s the staircase that Rose descends in that beautiful red and black gown to meet Jack for dinner. The development team for this game took pains to make sure that both the interior and exterior parts of the ship were historically accurate. The sets are beautiful and detailed, considering when the game was made and released. It always fascinated me to wander the ship and imagine I was really there.
This game came at a time in my life when I was playing other similar games such as the Myst series and Starship Titanic (a game based on a book about ship mentioned in Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series that was authored by Terry Jones. I will absolutely be telling you about this game later in the series, promise.) These games were incredible to me because of their lush, expansive sets to explore and often frustrating puzzles that required me to slow down and pay attention to the things I was encountering in the game.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, much like these other games, has so much replay value. Though these days it may be difficult to get it to run on newer operating systems, I would recommend trying it out. It’s a great way to learn more about an event we’ve all grown up hearing so much about in a new, exciting way. In fact, I think I’m going to go hunt myself down a copy and see if I can’t get it working myself.