A Religiously Charged Review of Captain Bible in Dome of Darkness

Oh yes. This is happening.

CAPTAIN BIBLE IN DOME OF DARKNESS

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Why?!

So, a week or so ago, I accidentally dug this out of a big pile of disks I have.

Complete with cracked jewel case!

I remember playing it as a kid, and being kind of frustrated by it because I didn't have the patience to read all the scripture you needed to read to play it. But, seeing how I had homework to ignore and I want to read the Bible more anyways, I wiped off the dust and popped it in my computer, hoping for a spiritually enriching distraction with all the campiness I could hope to revel in.

The fact that it won the 1994 CC Mag Reader's Choice Award for "Best Christian Computer Game" doesn't mean a lot, right?

How?!

To my delighted surprise, the game installs effortlessly on DOSBox and plays perfectly if you turn the CPU cycles up. Then, you just set the sound up in accordance to DOSBox's settings post-installation, and voila - it works like it's 1994 all over again.

During the install itself, it has several options, such as removing sexual/incestuous/etc content, allowing violent content, and allowing you to choose which version of the Bible can be used. This is clearly meant for parents, as the game is advertised for ages 7+. Since I'm a big boy, I left all of these on.

Conversation trees are rare when you're busy stabbing things.

Since I'm a HARDCORE GAMER, GUYS, I put the difficulty to hard. This review will be based on the hard difficulty as well as my somewhat fractured memories of easy and normal modes.

What?!

First thing's first: The game is not as bad as you would think it is. In fact, it's not bad at all.

I'll let that sink in.

The story is pure cheesy goodness. The Bible Corps have been assaulting a Dome of Darkness (powered by a Tower of Deception disguised as a weather tower) that's engulfed an entire city, but are unable to crack it open. Instead, they are only able to puncture a small hole in it. So they summon Captain Bible - a man in a white robe, blue toga, gold cuffs and boots and blue-and-gold cape - and give him a mission: Infiltrate the city through the hole, find enough people to power the city's Unibot (basically, the "Local Giant Mech") and use it to destroy the Tower of Deception.

Why don't they send him some backup?

If you were faced with a floating snake head, you'd hide behind something too.

...Because. That's why.

The story then stops until the end of the game. Once Captain Bible infiltrates the city, he's faced with seven different buildings connected via catwalks. He's forced to go through one of them first (due to the lack of communication centers in it - more on that later), but he can go through the remaining levels in any order that you wish.

Each building is a series of corridors riddled with rooms and "cybers" - robotic monsters that feed their victims lies.

No, seriously.

All they do is stand in your way, blocking your path until you destroy them. You do this by listening to their lie ("Judas died on the cross, not Jesus", "God enjoys making wicked people suffer", "God wouldn't associate his Holiness with something so insignificant as you", etc) and choosing a verse that directly contradicts it. If you select the right verse, Captain Bible roars "BIBLE POWER!" and enters combat. If you choose an irrelevant verse, the cyber gets a free hit on Captain Bible. If you choose a verse that technically works but isn't completely relevant, Captain Bible stands there scratching his head for a few seconds before being allowed to try again.

That sounds easy, doesn't it?

Well, not quite.

I hate spiders, don't you?

When Captain Bible got beamed into the city, his computer Bible was tragically wiped of all its contents. Thankfully, the Bible Corps has been firing Scripture Stations into the city as well, each of which adds a new scripture passage to his bible for use against the cybers (tragically, an annoying cyber wipes the Bible every time Captain Bible leaves a building, so you can't carry verses over to new buildings).

So... why does the Bible Corps fire these stations in even though the computer Bible can't survive the trip? And why do these verses just happen to match the specific set of lies found each building?

...Because. That's why.

Anyways, once you get the matching verse fired at the cyber, combat begins. (Unless you turned it off in the install, in which case the cyber just explodes. You can also turn on "Automatic Combat", which automates the fight decently well.) The combat is quite simple: Click on Captain Bible to raise your shield, and click on the cyber to take a swing. There are several different cybers you can fight (including snakes, spiders, "mantises", and others), and each one has its own weak spot. Once you learn what that weak spot is, combat is just a matter of blocking until they enter a compromising position, and then stabbing them. Sometimes, you have to stab them multiple times.

In return, the enemies will attempt to attack you with what I can only describe as "jellified deception". It's a green glowing substance that, when it hits you, decreases your Faith (which is essentially a health bar). Their methods of administering deception to you can be very... imaginative. One the cybers literally sprays it from their belly-button.

I don't know how a sword does this, but this is the FUTURE.

Each enemy type has a completely separate attack set, animation pattern, and movement, so it keeps things changing on the combat side (I think there's seven different types of fightable cyber). Even if you have the patterns down pat, the ending explosion is surprisingly satisfying, and you'll end the combat so quickly that it doesn't become boring. Cybers disintegrate, explode, and burn to a crisp, and the explosions are enormously louder than everything else, loud enough that it straddles the line between "satisfying" and "slapstick".

Each level is littered with rooms. There's a pretty small selection of what can be in a room, consisting mostly of chapels, traps, jump tunnels and communication rooms.

Sometimes, rooms are locked with giant belts and a computer. To open them, you have to find the verse that MATCHES the computer's statement, rather than contradict it.

Chapels are where you recover your stats and gain powers (???). At any time, if your faith is at less than 100%, you can pray to God to restore your faith (He will), which is how you regain "health". Furthermore, if you have the relevant verses uploaded to your Bible, you can gain the Sword of the Spirit (which takes down certain enemies in one hit), the Shield of Faith (which lets you hold your shield up i n combat for longer than a second at a time, as well as reducing all damage you take), a trap warning (which makes the doors of trapped rooms flash green) and the "Light to my Feet" (normally you can't progress through unlit corridors, but this power will light them up). If you run out of faith, you'll go back to the last chapel you were in (with everything you've done since then undone).

'Our Father in Heaven, give me better defined muscles.'

Trap rooms are irritating. When you enter one, a cyber points a gun at your head and tells a lie. While you can walk away from normal cybers by turning off your Bible (say, if you don't have the relevant verse), in a trap room, you MUST answer. If you give the wrong verse or try to walk away, you get shot, which does a good chunk of faith damage as well as removing all your acquired powers, meaning you have to trek back to the nearest chapel to recover everything. If you use the right verse, Captain Bible automatically stabs the cyber right in the head, in a surprisingly brutal move. On the hard difficulty, there is a LOT of these rooms, but you can proceed fairly safely by using the process of elimination and not being afraid to skip doors and check them out later. On easier difficulty, you tend to get the trap alert power which automatically notes traps on your map and makes the doors flash green.

Communication rooms aren't found in the first building (which is why you're forced to play it first). As you recruit people, they'll connect with you in communication rooms and ask for help understanding a verse they just read. You then have to answer yes or no to their suggestions of what the verse could mean. When you say yes to the wrong one or no to all the suggestions, they'll detect there's something wrong and you'll take a hit to your faith. If you say yes to the right suggestion, Captain Bible will give a more in depth explanation of the context and meaning of the verse, and the verse will be uploaded to your Bible. It makes for a more rewarding method of acquiring verses than just finding and clicking on the verse stations scattered around.

This gif was so fun to make.

Jump tunnels are just a way of quickly moving from one part of the map to the next quickly, without having to worry about rooms or paths that are between the jump tunnel endpoints (since the maps are 2D). When you enter one, you're suddenly tossed into a minigame where you move the mouse back and forth to dodge the enemies that are rushing at you with alarming speed. On hard, it's REALLY hard. On easy and normal, it's not. The minigame goes longer if the two endpoints are far apart.

In each building, your goal is to locate the "victim", who is an ordinary citizen who is either in the midst of sin or literally trapped by their sin. There are seven victims, each one representative of:

-Idolatry
-Greed
-Drug addiction
-Occultism
-Cowardice
-Unethical research
-Legalism

These will be the bane of your existence on hard.

Upon meeting them, you have to supply them a series of verses that offer rebuttal to their statements (they're all depicted as people who are Christians, and thus respect the Bible, but have horribly lost their way). If you give them a verse that doesn't address their point, they'll tell you to shove off until you can find a relevant verse. On easy difficulty, you can convince them of the error of their ways in two or three verses. On hard, you may use around ten. When they turn from their sin, they'll make their way over to the Unibot in preparation for the final showdown.

Once you've found all seven recruitable characters, you go to the Unibot and begin the final mission. Yes, you get to control a giant robot. During the mission, each of the recruits suffers a crisis of faith (they're surprisingly dark, too... if you fail to quell the Occultist's panic, it's implied he commits suicide right then and there). Once you get through that, the final showdown with the Tower of Deception occurs. And it's gloriously cheesy in the best way.

You might notice that the above is not a review, it's a pre-emptive FAQ. So let's actually analyze it, shall we?

The story is bad. It's really bad. BUT, I would contend that it's so bad it's good. It's barely there, so it never gets in the way, but it leaves just enough of a goal to keep the player playing to the end. However, it turns into pure cheese at the end, so if you enjoy so-bad-it's-good material, you may enjoy it. Others will roll their eyes.

A refreshing request, indeed.

The gameplay is so adequate that it's adequate. It's a weird way to put it, but it really does sum it up. There are no frills: You want to navigate a large maze. There is X blocking your way. You have to find Y and rub it on X to make X go away so that you can continue. Your goal is Z, upon finding Z and applying A, B, C, D and E (which were scattered through the maze), you win. It's a very simple concept with little added to it. Unfortunately, you have to apply Y to X over and over (especially on the easy difficulties), which leads to the game's only real downfall: Repetition.

If you're not interested in the subject matter, the game's repetition will utterly ruin it for you. While finding verses and chapels can be rewarding, you have to chop your way through cyber after cyber after cyber after trap after cyber after trap after trap to find them. This is true of the hard difficulty, and the easier difficulties are much smaller and emptier, but they're still notably repetitive. While a part of me wants to scream "artificial difficulty", I don't think it is artificial, because there's not very much that can be changed to increase the difficulty beyond "more damage, more monsters, more verses".

The thing that made me play the game for 20 hours was the context of the gameplay. At heart, it's meant to assist with Bible memorization (which is why it`s so repetitive). What it doubles as, however, is a straight up "This Is What We Believe" crash course into non-denominational Christianity. It takes a lot of issues and viewpoints that people bring up as a challenge to Christianity and straight-up answers them with a verse that remains constant across the KJV, NLV, NIV and Living translations of the Bible.

For this, it should be applauded, and for this alone, I recommend it to anyone who's curious about what Christians believe but don't want to ask us (since we are often a tragically assorted and contradictory bunch).

Captain Bible, here seen channeling Quentin Tarantino.

Graphically, the game is pretty dang good for a 1994 religious Bible-memorization tool. Small objects are blurry (the resolution is only 320x200), but there's a ton of detail added when they can. Cybers are very distinct and varied (among the few variations there are), each building is completely different than the last (even varying the camera distances between them), the doors in each building animate differently, and the exterior city looks dark and foreboding.

The sound design is fine. Most actions don't have sounds, but the ones that do have sounds that fit perfectly. Sometimes, you can tell where the sounds came from - the sound of Captain Bible leaping off a certain platform is clearly someone saying "Phew!" - but it doesn't distract if you're paying attention to the game. The explosions are much louder than the rest of the proceedings (to the point that they're almost comical), but it makes them more gratifying when they happen.

Level design was actually done well. The easier difficulties have smaller, less interesting levels, but the hard difficulty has mazes that require map-checking, process of elimination to select safe routes, heavy reliance on chapels, and some actually interesting exploration. The level design also helps ease the repetition, because each building often has a gimmick of sorts. One building has security zappers that you have to time yourself to get by. Another one makes the player navigate it by periodically popping outside and finding a different entry point. My favorite however, is the one where you fly.

HELP ME!  I CAN'T LAND!

Yes.

You can fly in this game.

For one level, but still.

In terms of challenge, the game pulls it off very well for what it has to work with. The easy mode is quite easy (six-year-old me could do it), and hard mode is actually fairly hard. It's made even harder if you don't save-scum (as I unashamedly do). The hard mode can be decently rewarding on it's own, and it allows for personal challenges as well (such as "complete the game without the Shield of Faith", if you're masochistic).

Of course, it all comes down to one question: Is it fun?

And... yes. Yes, I suppose it is. I had fun with it, anyways, and I don't see why someone else wouldn't.

It mostly depends on your patience level. If you're OK with repetition, then the game is fine. If you're not, then you'll be restless and possibly bored.

As a game, I give it a B- due to good attention to detail and production values countered by repetition and a slightly dodgy structure.

However, it seems fair to also rate it as a crash-course into Christianity, which is where the game stands apart. And in that category, I give it an A due to good coverage of non-denominational issues and well-researched content. It could have scored higher if it looked at denominations.

So there you go... Someone was insane enough to post a review of this on the Escapist. I hope you enjoyed it.

Me vs The Comments: a prediction

Interesting. A Christian game that appears to have some thought and actual artistic skill thrown at it. That's a rarity.

Looks like a decent game, though as a devil-worshiping antitheist I'm not overly fond of the content. I'm mostly interested in how it "straight-up answers" "a lot of issues and viewpoints that people bring up as a challenge to Christianity" but I'm not going to ask and derail the thread.

Anyway, awesome review.

Formica Archonis:
Interesting. A Christian game that appears to have some thought and actual artistic skill thrown at it. That's a rarity.

Lucky me that it was the first Christian game I ever played. :D

NoeL:
Looks like a decent game, though as a devil-worshiping antitheist I'm not overly fond of the content. I'm mostly interested in how it "straight-up answers" "a lot of issues and viewpoints that people bring up as a challenge to Christianity" but I'm not going to ask and derail the thread.

Anyway, awesome review.

Yeah... I don't claim to have the patience, level-headedness, time, references or smarts to go into the intricacies of what Captain Bible at least tries to do in terms of rebutting cultural challenges to Christianity, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut on the subject. I say, let Captain Bible do the talking and let smarter Theists than me do the follow-up. :P

Thanks for the compliment, though!

I played this game as a kid.
It was too easy because I was raised in one of 'those' christian families.

Surprised it didn't turn me into an atheist then and there.
XD

Tanis:
I played this game as a kid.
It was too easy because I was raised in one of 'those' christian families.

Surprised it didn't turn me into an atheist then and there.
XD

Oh come now. There's no way it was THAT bad. :P

 

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