890B is such an ominous title for the isometric 3D adventure from Eastasiasoft and Nerd Games. What exactly does 890B mean? Who knows at this point, but what we do know is that – according to the game’s official description – it’s going to offer a thought-provoking and impactful story involving the fate of humanity. Does 890B live up to its own promises, or are your chances of finding enjoyment as low as you actually saving the world?
While it’s not easy to be overly critical of a game costing under a fiver, 890B doesn’t come close to delivering a story that’s worth taking in and that dents its hopes of being a success. Unfortunately, the rest of it isn’t much cop either.
890B is set in a not-too-distant future when the Earth has become uninhabitable and so a new home needs to be found. It places you in the role of a scientist named Noah, right in the middle of a power outage at the research laboratory. With a little help from the only other human in the vicinity, Luna, you’re going to have to reboot the power system in order to continue the work on locating a habitable planet. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
Make no mistake, it is incredibly straightforward indeed. The main crux of 890B sees you partake in the simplest of fetch quests from the very start onwards; wandering to and from little white squares on the floor which indicate an interaction is to be had there. Monotonous is perhaps the best way to describe traipsing back and forth within what is quite a small research centre. For the most part this is to help Luna, who has the knowledge necessary to get everything up and running again. There are a fair few interactions between the two and it’s during these moments that the storytelling comes to the forefront of proceedings.
The fact that the dialogue is text-based shouldn’t really be an issue, unless the writing itself isn’t great of course. Well, not only will it fail to capture your attention, it is also likely to bore you to tears. The interactions are supposed to be between two colleagues, but instead they speak like robots and lack any kind of personality. It does 890B no favours and, when coupled with the bland tasks, makes for a tedious experience. As such, the last hope to provide a saving grace to even consider 890B rests upon the puzzles included.
In regards to puzzles, there are three different kinds of problems to tackle. The first requires you to type out a list of text commands in the order specified and is perhaps the easiest of the bunch, while also being a chore to input. The next is a set of Snake-inspired levels, which task you with avoiding circuit boards en route to a connection point for the snake-like wire to plug into. As an idea, it’s a decent concept befitting of the situation, however the blocky nature of the snake’s composition makes it tricky to time the movements and the hit boxes feel slightly off, meaning you can fail through no fault of your own.
Whether you’re going to enjoy the final puzzle type depends on your fondness of the Sokoban (as seen in SokoBunny) box pushing. The aim is to use a 2D square to push other 2D squares into certain places within each of the five levels. There are no frills here; you just have to solve the increasingly difficult problems, using logic as well as trial and error. Although the toughness could be a sticking point, it’s technically fine and on the whole it is perhaps the most enjoyable section.
On the visual front, 890B does nothing fancy. The designs of the characters are as bland as their personalities, while the surroundings are nothing to shout about with rather generic looking rooms and corridors. In fact, the standout feature is a marble flooring inside a storeroom and that should tell you all you need to know.
890B is a very short experience, with an average playtime of an hour, but that alone isn’t the issue. The problem is, you’ll spend a large chunk of it mindlessly visiting the same parts of the facility and engaging in boring conversation. The story isn’t just lacking, it’s utterly pointless, possessing nothing that could hook you in or cause a smidgen of intrigue. Aside from the Sokoban puzzles, the rest will either underwhelm or irritate you and limit the enjoyment on offer.
Do you really want to pay the asking price of 890B for a handful of box-pushing exercises? I’d highly recommend you don’t.
890B is available right now via the Xbox Store