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Video Game / Gadget: Past as Future

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Gadget: Invention, Travel, & Adventure is a point and click video game (though honestly more of a Visual Novel) directed by Haruhiko Shono and first released by Synergy Interactive in 1993. In 1998, a better-known remake of the game titled Gadget: Past as Future was released by Cryo Interactive.

The game is set within a Diesel Punk nation called "The Empire," ruled by dictator Paulo Orlovsky, that feels and looks similar to that of George Orwell's 1984.

The plot is quite esoteric and ambiguous. A lot of it is left to interpretation or told only by inference. As far as anyone can tell; the nation commissioned this group of seven scientists (headed by Horselover Frost) to build a Mind-Control Device called "Sensorama" to brainwash dissidents. However, the scientists spotted at the observatory a comet approaching the earth, along with a mysterious giant spaceship, and realized the world was going to end and that the spaceship was there to rescue those who would come. So they hacked into the Sensorama so that those subjected to it would obey Horselover instead. The nation became suspicious of the scientists and has a secret agent investigate them. You take the role of that agent. Prior to the game, however, you get subjected to the Sensorama yourself, and the rest of the game is played under its influence.


You get assigned by your commanding officer, Theodore Slowslop, to investigate the scientists again. You travel around a bunch of train stations (the operative word of the game is "locomotive," imagery of them abounds in the game to a borderline fetishistic degree), talking to the scientists at their secret laboratories, and under the Sensorama's influence you begin helping them, gathering gizmos to complete a small-scale spaceship called the "Ark," which, supposedly, the scientists will use to fly up to the big one. You are riddled throughout with hallucinations of what appears to be a post-apocalyptic swampland; and a creepy little boy who keeps appearing and disappearing, never saying a word, of whom the identity and purpose of is completely unknown. By the end, very little is explained and it is left unclear exactly how much of the journey has even been real.


In appearance, the game is very similar to Myst. However, the game is entirely linear; you cannot do anything or travel anywhere that isn't scripted. You click to move ahead and activate things; that's it. There's only one puzzle in the game; a relatively simple maze at the end when you navigate the Ark through some underground tunnels. It is therefore really more a Kinetic Novel that you play for the beautiful scenery and eerie atmosphere more than it is a Video Game.

This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: What the random scenes taking place in a swamp might be.
  • All There in the Manual: The creative team behind the game also published a book of CG art expanding on the world and characters; much of the information given — transcripts of recorded conversations, reports on Sensorama experiments, the face and name of the protagonist — cannot be found anywhere else. It also reveals that the scientists are lying through their teeth to the government, and vice versa.
  • Bag of Holding: Your character's inventory is a suitcase he carries around.
  • Brown Note: Some of the people you talk to explain that this is what the Sensorama inflicts on people, through electromagnetic waves.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: The plot gets kicked off by a radio newscast in your hotel room discussing the comet. An updated broadcast elsewhere describes what the comet's impact will cause.
  • Comet of Doom: What the scientists claim will destroy the earth.
  • Cool Plane: The player flies one at one point.
  • Cool Train: The entire point of the game is Cool Trains.
  • Creepy Child: The boy.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Opening the door directly across from your hotel room at the beginning of the game, shows the Sensorama that appears at the end of the game.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The beginning and end are accompanied by one.
  • Gainax Ending: The game ends with you flying the Ark into this giant mechanical structure topped with a glass dome. Inside is what looks like a giant Sensorama. Slowslop, who previously was having you investigate the scientists but now seems to be working with them, tells you to give him your suitcase; then the giant sensorama activates, there's a hallucination and Slowslop disappears. Then you come to and find the machine destroyed, you go through some doors and end up back in the hotel room you began the game in; albeit with the aforementioned swampland outside the window. There's another regular-sized Sensorama which you use and see what Orlovsky planned for the empire, then the boy appears again, disappears, then you see some swirling lights outside the window; you fly out of it over the swamplands; a face rises out of a pool of water, and then the game ends. Not kidding.
  • Hell Hotel: The hotel where you start and end the game. The art book reveals that it's actually a government research lab disguised as a hotel.
  • It's Up to You: Slowslop can't investigate the scientists himself because of his rank as Army Supreme Commander, which is why you were sent instead.
  • Just Before the End: Orlovsky's senseless pursuit of power has been driving the Empire into ruin, which is partly why the scientists want to leave Earth before the comet hits. Even the advanced machines you use contrast with the bleak, gloomy environment surrounding everything.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Victims of the Sensorama are strapped into a chair aimed at the device, and forced to endure the visions it beams into their brains.
  • Magic Meteor: The Ark is powered by a near-permanent power source derived from the ore of a meteorite. Some of the other gadgets are implied to run on it as well.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Sensorama. The art book and dialogue from some of the scientists implies that it was initially made to help people recover their memories, but the government repurposed it to brainwash dissidents.
  • The Mole: According to Horselover, Slowslop is secretly in league with the scientists, supporting their project under Orlovsky's nose. Maybe.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: The Museum of Science, where the Empire's scientists fix broken machines and put them on display. It even has a working aircraft upstairs.
  • New Era Speech: Your final Sensorama-induced vision shows Orlovsky giving one, gloating about the Empire's many machines and his drive to perfect the Sensorama, complete with his face shown in a Hitler Cam.
    Orlovsky: Complete and total power. That's what my Empire will have.
  • Only Sane Man: Several characters throughout the game insist that they are this.
  • Room 101: Room 306 in the West End Hotel. Dissedents are sent here to be brainwashed by the Sensorama, and you enter it at the endgame.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Slowslop, on several occasions.
  • Shadow Dictator: Paulo Orlovsky, who views the scientists as terrorists and tries to suppress the news of the incoming comet. He also has a creepy smirk whenever you see him.
  • Sickly Green Glow: The meteoric ore gives off this when used in the various gadgets, including the Sensorama.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Most of the dialogue is given solely in subtitles, so it's rather unnerving to answer a ringing phone and hear Slowslop on the other end.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: What the entire game might very well be.
  • Track Trouble: Towards the end of the game, the train track back to West End is hit by glowing space debris, forcing the train to backtrack and reroute to another line.
  • Unwitting Test Subject: Some characters and a hidden document reveal that there were 12 failed subjects exposed to the Sensorama before you, each of whom appear at least once during your frequent train rides. Slowslop reveals at the end that you are the 13th subject.

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