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The Classics: 'Beneath a Steel Sky'

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It may not have done much new in terms of gameplay, but Beneath a Steel Sky was an incredibly refreshing point-and-click adventure that mixed humor with a gritty dystopic future.

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The Classics are must-see, must-read, must-play works revered by The Verge staff. They offer glimpses of the future, glimpses of humanity, and a glimpse of our very souls. You should check them out.

Sometimes all it takes to brighten up a dystopic future is a sense of humor. 1994's Beneath a Steel Sky from Revolution Software took place in a somewhat cliche, gritty cyberpunk world — oppressed citizens kept in check by a Big Brother-style government, that sort of thing — but managed to feel different by not taking itself too seriously. It's the kind of game where the main character is named Robert Foster because he was found in the Australian outback beside a can of Foster's beer, and where your only companion is a smart-ass robot named Joey.

Beneath a Steel Sky didn't reinvent the wheel when it came to point-and-click adventure gameplay — the core play wasn't all that different from classics like Snatcher, modern games like Gemini Rue, or even future titles from Revolution like the Broken Sword series— but that didn't make exploring Union City and investigating the mysterious, all-controlling computer LINC any less fun. The dialog was sharp, witty, and well-acted, and the city was expansive and full of secrets. Even the puzzles were varied, letting you do everything from creatively repairing broken machinery to navigating a bizarre virtual reality. Surprisingly few games — adventure or otherwise — have managed to nail the combination of gritty sci-fi and quirky humor, making BaSS a refreshing experience even now. It was sort of like a mix of Blade Runner and a LucasArts game, giving you the satisfaction of both solving a wide-ranging conspiracy and hearing plenty of jokes along the way.

And unlike most classic games, BaSS is readily available today, close to two decades after its original release. The PC version is now freeware, while a remastered version — which includes enhanced comic book-style cut-scenes courtesy Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons — is on iOS for $2.99. It's also the perfect way to gear up for the next big adventure game from former LucasArts legend Tim Schafer and his Double Fine studio.