Under The Dimming Sun
With a heavy heart we must say that South Seven is at it again. If you read our review over a year ago on the small Dallas studio’s stand-out PS1 title Verboten you’ll know that it “stood-out” for all the wrong reasons. Clunky controls, bad UI, awful art direction, and innumerable glitches have all become a calling card of South Seven’s approach to game design (or lack thereof.) With Under The Dimming Sun we’re set to get more of the same… and yet I can’t help but confess that I love it.
Still with me? Excellent.
Before we begin I’d like to make myself abundantly clear: Under The Dimming Sun is a categorically bad game. It is blatantly unfinished, and the parts that are finished don’t work half the time, and crash the other half. It absolutely is not worth the 20-dollar asking price, even for the novelty. Unless you’re the type who owns a Japanese import of LSD: Dream Emulator, please do not go out and buy this because I wax poetic about it for the rest of this review. Wait a few years until marked down copies begin to appear in your local Goodwill. And even then, use your discretion.
You might begin to see that my lead paragraph ends with a bit of a footnote. I must confess that I love Under The Dimming Sun¸ but for all the wrong reasons.
UTDS is, according to the back of the case, a single player role-playing game---and, ostensibly, it is. But I like to think of it as a puzzle game. Unlike works such as Myst, Tetris, or even (as some have described it) Ico, which are games whose puzzle elements form the core mechanic, UTDS’s puzzle is in its message, intention, and circumstances of creation. Put more plainly, UTDS is a puzzling game, in the same sense that finding a sparkplug encased in amber is puzzling. This, for me, is enough to keep it interesting.
Now enough of my ruminations. Let me tell you about the game.
When you first insert the game disk into the console you’re greeted with the standard intro roll of logos: South Seven, Dormouse Interactive (South Seven’s parent company), Vestibule Media (Dormouse’s parent company), Tungsten Online (Vestibule’s parent company), Mnemonic Technology Systems (Tungsten’s parent company), and finally Schild-Harbor Holdings (Mnemonic’s parent company). More on this later.
After that parade of shell companies we’re presented with the main menu, which is about as bleak as the box art. We’re given four options centered above a static image of a red-tinted city skyline: New, Load, Options, Reset. There is no music, or even the game’s title. The more charitable might describe this as “minimalist,” but for a game that lacks analog support on the PlayStation 2 this merely amounts to further evidence that something went terribly wrong during production.
Choosing “New” starts a new game, unsurprisingly. Character customization is straightforward but barebones. You select your name, gender, height, birthday, and favourite colour. To give you an idea of how glitchy this game really is, during character creation I found five distinct bugs: the keyboard lets you move the cursor off the screen, gender needs to be selected twice, the height has no dimensions, February has a 31st, and selecting “custom favourite colour ” crashes the game. That’s South Seven quality.
My character in my first playthrough was a 5-foot-3 (I think) woman born on the impossible date who loves the colour blue and whose name is too vulgar to be printed here.