If you average together all the scores from the initial magazine reviews of D/Generation for the Amiga CD32, you will come up with an overall score of 81%. So why would this game warrant a higher grade than that fourteen years later? Well, for one, mainstream gaming has undergone some great changes and so have the perceptions of what makes a great adventure title. As impressive as modern adventures are, they are often marred by long expositions, endless dialogue, and the undying influence of the highly derivative world of manga and anime. By revisiting an older game like D/Generation, we can remind ourselves of the value of originality and reinforce the adage that "less is indeed more."
Written shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the balkanization of its former satellite states, D/Generation smartly foresees a future where a pride-injured Russia has laid waste to Kazakhstan and has warred with the Georgian Republic. The geo-political backdrop, however, is not the focus of the game. Rather than taking the long view of world events, the story unfolds through the experiences of an everyman-in this case a courier with a jetpack and package to deliver.
After jetpacking across Europe and Asia to reach a skyscraper in Singapore, our young delivery boy finds the receptionist of the Genoq pharmaceutical company out cold behind her desk. We soon learn that the package is for a man named Derrida, the head scientist of the company. Like his literary namesake, Derrida show us there is a major "differance" between sign and signifier as we learn that the Genoq building is just a front for a bio-engineering firm illegally creating creatures to aid in international warfare for the highest bidders. Besides contending with panoptic security systems, you must also wind your way past four generations of bio-engineered baddies to reach the 89th floor and face Derrida himself. Each generation is more brutal than the last, culminating in the fiercest one, the D-Generation model. By the end, you realize the protagonist has more dedication to his delivery job than that poor sap from that Castaway movie. (It's a good thing the game came out before product placement became normal in gaming.)
D/Generation has several appeals. Some moments work best with a run-and-gun mentality, but most rooms are best traversed by careful planning and studying how your laser ricochets off cubicle walls. The game-view is isometric, and while this usually creates for awkward control in most games, the programmers here were smart enough to allow a player to choose the axis configuration with the joypad. In other words, sometimes up on the d-pad equals up on the screen or it can match the direction according to the character's perspective. Choosing your axis wisely adds to the strategic attraction.
The game is by no means easy. Bio-weapons, laser cannons, mines, electrified tiles, and force fields kill you without mind or mercy. Gratefully, your own laser ricochets cannot hurt you, though they can quickly obliterate the hostages you want to save. Additionally, each rescued hostage grants you one life. Sometimes, however, it is in the player's interest to have a Genoq worker set off a booby trap in order to disable it. Morally ambiguous moments and choices like this were uncommon in gaming in 1993 and may cause stir with the player, but you can ease your troubled mind by justifying that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of one unlucky nine-to-fiver running into a laser fence and frizzling into millions of charred atoms.
A save slot also aids you in your climb to the 89th floor, but unfortunately, there is only one. If you found that you used your resources poorly (i.e. grenades), then you may want to start from scratch and budget your inventory more carefully. This lack of multiple save slots is really the only real bugaboo of the entire game.
Though D/Generation tackles real and frightening possibilities, it does not take itself terribly seriously until perhaps the final few levels. Rescued workers emerge from behind their desks to thank you which lead to some funny and sometimes bizarre conversations. One worker asks you for a date amidst all the chaos. Another worker who has apparently been cooped up in his cubicle too long introduces himself as "the bringer of famine" before laughing manically and running away. With each floor you ascend, the game's tone grows more and more ominous. On the last floor, the apocalyptic weight becomes fully realized as you confront Derrida in a room in the shape of a crucifix (an image that would automatically preclude the game from being ported to the sanitary Nintendo console of the early 1990s). When you add the 20-minute self-destruct timer that begins on the 87th floor, the game goes jaunt to frenzy with each ticking second.
Though good enough to warrant a sequel, D/Generation lives on singly as one of the highlights of the Amiga library. Recently, its head programmer, Robert Cook, once joked "my computer games are known for their obscurity." Regardless of its status as a hidden-gem, many gamers have drawn parallels between it and the popular Resident Evil (Biohazard) series. D-Generation's story has been aptly seen as rung on the ladder in the survival horror genre. Like Resident Evil it tells a story of a multi-tiered bio-engineering experiment gone awry through corporate malpractice. Though the halls of the Genoq building are not blood-splattered and dark, the game entails both "survival" and "horror" and it should be included in the same breath as games like Sweet Home or Alone in the Dark as precursors to a widely popular genre.
D/Generation is challenging, well-written, attractive, and most importantly, fun. It is one of the tidiest, well-designed games of its time. Every switch, tile, and square-inch serves its purpose with mathematic precision. If you are new to the Amiga CD32, you may want to start with this one. It delivers.