grumbel's J.U.L.I.A. (PC) review

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A simplistic, but well executed and enjoyable sci-fi adventure

J.U.L.I.A. is a science fiction adventure game and was released in 2012. The game puts you into the role of scientist Rachel Manners on a research spaceship that as arrived in a new solar system, but as you soon find out something went horribly wrong and you are the only person left on board. Your task is to find out what happened to the rest of the expedition.

Mechanically the game isn't structured like the regular first person or third person adventure game, but instead follows a multiple-choice driven approach that is closer to old text adventures. The limitation to multiple-choice makes most of the exploration pretty straight forward as there aren't any objects you can accidentally overlook or an inventory you have to fill. The challenge in J.U.L.I.A. comes instead from puzzle mini-games that you encounter throughout the game, machines you have to repair, codes you have to break or blueprints you have to construct.

The games world is split up into six planets and your ship. The ship acts as a hub and allows you to travel to the different planets and also provides some mini-games in the form of repairs. Planet exploration happens not by going down yourself, but through Mobot, a versatile mobile robot that you send down to the planets surface. While exploring and giving directions to Mobot, Rachel, the ships AI and Mobot will have constant conversations to provide further details on the situation.

Presentation wise the game is very basic. Each planet is presented by a simplistic background panel along with closeups of whatever rooms Mobot is investigating. There are some 3D animations for transitions, such as when you send Mobot down to the planet, but otherwise the game uses static images with just some minor animation. Mobot, Rachel and the ships AI also get a little animated image when doing dialog, but the animation is always the same and doesn't really adjust to the situation.

Overall J.U.L.I.A. is quite a pleasant experience. The presentation is rather minimal, but it gets the job done and managed to build up the atmosphere quite well. The limitation to multiple-choice gives the game a good flow and prevents you from ever getting seriously stuck. The mini-game puzzle have a good difficulty to them, nothing that will make your brain melt, but something that will force you to think for a bit. The lack of widescreen is a little disappointing for 2012 game and early on in the game I encountered a situation that would result in a corrupt savegame, but simply playing through that section and saving after it fixed that. The games story is good enough to keep you interested and overall there just isn't a whole lot to complain about. It's not exactly a must-play game, not the longest one and mostly pretty straight forward without any to big surprises, but as far as sci-fi adventure games go, it's a fun one and I enjoyed the 5-6h it takes a good bit.

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