Space Station Silicon Valley is a 3D puzzle platformer for the Nintendo 64. The plot is basically that the robotic animals in this particular space station, Space Station Silicon Valley, have taken over and must be stopped before they come back to Earth to destroy it or… take it over or… something. The plot is pretty much just a premise to get these two heroes for hire into the situation. The scientist and his robot get into a fight on the way there and crash land into the space station, destroying the robot Evo’s body in the process. So now he must use his bug-like chip to inhabit the bodies of defeat robot animals and use their abilities to progress, get the supplies they need, to get his body back, and to ultimately take back the space station to save the Earth and get their reward. It’s mostly covered in a short scene if you idle on the title screen long enough if you feel you really need all the details.
There are four zones, each containing a number of normal levels and a final stage with a more unique style. To unlock the final level of the game you must beat every one of these levels. There’s a zone based on Europe apparently, a snow zone, a jungle zone, and a desert zone. All the levels in these zones and most of the animals you find will be based on the type of zone. You typically start a level inside of one of these robot animals with a set of objectives to complete in order to activate the exit teleporter. You’ll usually need to kill some other animals in the stage to use their abilities in order to complete these objectives. Every animal has its own set of stats that will be shown to you the first time you inhabit them or whenever you walk to to one of the static TVs around the level. Each one has an ability assigned to the A button and the B button which means not all of them necessarily attack nor do they all necessarily jump. Some will die in water, some will float in water, some will sink in water, and some even die outside of water. They also have different attack strength, armor, and fall distances. Many of the puzzles will require switching between animals to accomplish multiple parts before advancing.
There are also 15 energy cells you have the option of finding and collecting in each level as well as a hidden trophy that will appear after completing some unexplained task. The energy cells are just for points, which you can also obtain by defeating enemies and the score is reset after each death, but the trophies will unlock a hidden bonus game should you collect them all. There are also electric orbs you can grab to refill your health meter, which drains from being hurt by enemies, the environment, and will slowly be sapped away continuously as long as you are outside of an animal host. Losing all of your health will result in death which resets your level progress and your score but there are no lives or game overs. After completing a certain amount of levels you will unlock the start of the next zone. The final level in each zone tends to use some unique spin on the mechanics rather than being a mix of puzzle solving and exploration like the main levels. Winning will save your high score for that challenge in case you’d like to try and beat it later and nets you part of your body. Beat them all and you’ll have your body back for the final level where you must fend off the army of animals attacking Earth.
I enjoy the cartoony style of this game. The characters are goofy and expressive with colorful visuals and a lighthearted look at both these animals and their strange robotic hybridizations. The music is prety catchy, too. There’s an interesting amount of depth to this game in some of the more unique uses for mechanics, like the rat’s bite attack also being used to eat poop in the sewers in order to regain some health. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and has lots of interesting puzzles to figure out. It gets especially challenging when you want to explore every inch of the level to find those energy cells and figure out just what the secret is to unlocking that particular level’s trophy. You’ll find yourself getting creative in figuring out how you might find new areas or interact with the environments. There’s also some room for finding alternate solutions or strategies to solve your problems. Great for picking it up and playing whenever or just binge playing if you’d prefer. It’s flexible.
The things is, it’s fairly rough around the edges. It can feel a little floaty and imprecise with the hitboxes and abilities. Sometimes you’ll just need to do the same thing a few times in case it just didn’t take exactly correctly the first few times. Some of the stages require you to do things rather specifically or else it’ll be very hard if not totally impossible, which is bothersome when not all stages require that. Sometimes you are plopped into new animals at the start and not told what their stats are, which is annoying. And should you forget the stats you had better hope there’s a TV within that animal’s reach or get ready for some trial and error. The game is forgiving enough with progress only being lost for that particular level, but it can be very annoying to do so much only to die and have to do all of the precise things again with the imprecise control. Also, the collectibles only seem to be fun for the challenge of it. Getting all the energy cells seems to do nothing more than give you points, which go away whenever you die and ultimately mean nothing as they are never recorded nor do they unlock anything. The trophies are fun to get, but due to a bug in the game, the one on Fat Bear Mountain can be activated but not collected. You just walk through it. So in order to get the bonus for getting them all you’ll need to put in a cheat code, which is an easy excuse to skip any others you have trouble with when you know you have to do that anyway. Basically, it just lacks a level of polish and also the lack of coverage of this game makes it even more difficult to work around them effectively despite having modern day internet as a resource.
Look, Space Station Silicon Valley was a game I rented years ago as a kid. I remember it being really interesting and appealing but never had a ton of time with it. So when I finally found a copy in a used game store I just couldn’t resist. It also had a video store rental sticker on it so maybe it was mostly made to be one of those titles and that’s why it fell into obscurity. What I would say is that, because this game is very interesting but rough around the edges, this is one for those who already have the essentials of the Nintendo 64 and want to go deeper without it going into trashy territory. It really feels almost like a discount Rareware wannabe type of title and that’s still some praise. If you can get it for 20 bucks or less and are into some puzzle stuff, 3D platformers, and light collect-a-thon elements, then you might be pleasantly surprised at this hidden gem. It’s a Nintendo 64 game for fans of the Nintendo 64 if nothing else. Hopefully someday people will at least know it enough to have an opinion on it rather than getting lots of confusion upon its mention. And if you’re reading this… have YOU ever played it? I would absolutely love to know. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go inhabit the body of my robot dog to chase off the mailman. AMAZING closer, Sam. Print that!