A clumsy detective investigates space murders in 2000:1: A Space Felony

Most of the games about exploring a spacecraft where bad things happened have been inspired by the System Shock series, which are stone-cold classics even if the first one's clunky and the second one has a rubbish ending. But 2000:1: A Space Felony is a game about bad things happening in space that goes back further for its inspiration—all the way to 1968 and the Stanley Kubrick movie it draws its title from.

Not to spoil it or anything, but the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey is like an explosion at the headfuck factory, a barrage of psychedelic imagery and strangeness. But 2000:1: A Space Felony says, "What if... no? What if instead, after the bad things in space happened, a kind of rubbish detective showed up to investigate? And the whole thing was presented as a flashback from that detective being questioned after the fact?"

So that's the setup. You're on the USS Endowment, a ship whose AI has stopped responding and whose crew have probably died. It's all gone a bit tits up, out there in space.

The Endowment's not a big ship, but you get to explore it inside and out, floating around in zero gravity. Which is nice—at least until you bump into something and it makes a deliberately overstated and comical DOONK noise. 

Your main interaction is left-clicking to take photos of evidence while the AI, who is named MAL, chats away. MAL's quite funny, powerful but incompetent, and the source of the funniest parts of the game. (The intro is right here in the trailer and a good example of its sense of humor.)

The point of gathering evidence is to march, or at least float, up inside MAL's brain at the end of the ship and present it to him as a way of catching him in contradictions and eventually uncovering the truth. Who killed all of these conveniently color-coded astronauts? Did they use the space wrench in the space kitchen? And so on.

This it the gamiest part of 2000:1 and kind of the weakest. The way it works is you left-click on one of the photos you've taken to present it to MAL, then when he tries to explain it you hover over to a photo that either answers the question he's raised or proves that he's lying, then right-click on it. The tutorial for this isn't great and I wandered away and started investigating on my own before I was supposed to, merrily taking photos of primary color corpses against the inky blackness.

That's the part of 2000:1 that really clicked for me—just wandering about and looking at things. Even when I'm not into a Kubrick movie the visuals are always impressive and 2000:1 does a fine job of recreating his style, nodding at Dr. Strangelove as well as 2001. It's better at being a homage than a parody, playing classical music while you serenely drift past beautiful objects in space.

And then, DOONK.

2000:1: A Space Felony was originally released as part of the Humble Monthly subscription back in July, but now you can buy it separately on itch.io. Its creators, National Insecurities Presents, are also responsible for Disorient On the Murder Express, which they're planning to release a remake of nearer to Christmas. 

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.