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Video Game / Starship Titanic

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"Bing-Bong! We regret to announce that the ship is hurtling out of control through hyperspace. All passengers with insurance queries, please contact your ticket vendors."
The ever-helpful announcer

"Well, the ship has lost its mind, and so has most of its crew, including me..."
Edmund Lucy Fentible, DoorBot

Starship Titanic is a 1998 point-and-click adventure game written and designed by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), developed by The Digital Village, and published by Simon & Schuster Interactive. Set aboard an intergalactic cruise ship, the game opens with the ship crashing into your house, and before you know it, it turns out someone has lobotomised the main computer, the ship is adrift in space and it's up to you to fix things.

There is still a functional website that can be found here. There is also a novelization of the game by Pythonite Terry Jones, who claims to only having agreed to Adams' proposal to write said book if he could write it in the nude. Which he supposedly did. In 2017, the game's engine was completely overhauled as part of the ScummVM project for modern computer compatibility.

Not to be confused with two other starships named Titanic.

Starship Titanic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Achilles' Heel: The Maître d'Bot has an "Achilles' Buttock," which must be prodded repeatedly before he will let you look at Scraliontis' corpse.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Once you bring the ingredients for the BarBot's cocktail to him, the mixing process fries his circuits and forces his personality to default to that of a happy drunk.
  • All There in the Manual: The website for Starlight Travel, the company that supposedly built the Starship Titanic (now defunct but available on the Internet Archive), contains some concept art, design plans, maintenance reports, Brobostigon's diary, and even a calculator for various currencies in the Starship Titanic universe. The maintenance reports range from routine inspections and inter-company bickering all the way through to funny.
    Opportunity: Navoplex test run parametrically satisfactory but whining noise heard after system shutdown.
    Action: Yossa gan Hoorgnote  removed from Bridge area. Whining noise ceased.
  • All Up to You: True, you occasionally persuade the bots to help, but it's an uphill struggle. Fentible tries to justify this in the intro, saying that because Titania was dismantled, the side effect made all of the robots unable to figure out the problems on board the ship.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The 2017 ScummVM version includes an option to skip the last puzzle, which would normally have required the 3D glasses that came packaged with the physical game.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Missive-O-Mat in Titania's Room, containing emails describing Scraliontis' and Brobostigon's plans to sabotage the ship.
  • Arc Words: "Nobody likes a smart-ass." It's used to describe Leovinus, the ship's designer, and it's the passcode to disarm the bomb.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The Grand Axial Canal and Arboretum have a simulated sky on the ceiling.
  • Bald of Evil: Brobostigon is bald.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Any and all of the approving comments made by the DeskBot in regards to your SGT stateroom.
      Marsinta: Well, you certainly won't like the room you've got, then!
    • The only occupants of the First Class Restaurant are the Maître d'Bot and Scraliontis, but the bot will insist that every single table is busy.
  • Cool Starship: It's a hotel In Space.
  • Copy-and-Paste Environments: The Second Class stateroom lobbies have the same elevators as the Super Galactic Traveler Class stateroom lobbies, only the SGT elevators serve three staterooms while the Second Class elevators only serve two. The Second Class elevators still have three buttons, though.
    Elevator Announcer: (on pressing the top button) "This button also takes you to the upper level, but is situated three inches higher for your convenience."
  • Creator Cameo: Turn on your television at the beginning, and Douglas Adams himself will appear on the screen and tell you to get on with the game. He also voices the Succ-U-Bus, the ship's artificially intelligent pneumatic-tube system. And plays Leovinus, the Titanic's designer, in a recording near the end of the game.
  • Cutting the Knot: One of the four main elevators isn't working, and one of the puzzles is figuring out how to access it. The official strategy guide advises you to use other lifts to hoist the broken one to the top. It's far easier just to work out which floor the elevator's on and take another one there, once you have access to Second Class.
  • Dilating Door: The ship has two, the one visible in the intro and the door to the arboretum, which 'grows' open and closed.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: The nature of the warnings on the three inspection hatches to a fuse box:
    Danger unbelievably high voltage!!! No user serviceable parts inside.
    You really shouldn't have opened the first inspection plate!!! This is not only fantastically dangerous, but you are voiding your warranty.
    Don't say you weren't warned!!!
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The only two characters to even acknowledge the trouble you're going to are Marsinta (once you've fiddled with her settings) and Titania.
  • Eye Scream: Not particularly Squicky, given that she's a robot, but Titania's eyes have been ripped out (along with every other facial feature and major components of her brain).
  • Fake Arm Disarm: Leovinus and Scraliontis used two of the Maître D-bot's limbs to fight each other, and eventually smashed the whole thing apart when landing on it. This didn't affect the robot much, though, as he can still wiggle his components even when separated. You have to actually steal his arms, and get him to relax to let go of the things they're holding.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Which allows a ship from the other side of the galaxy to crash into your house.
  • Featureless Protagonist: We only have the Robots' assurance that we're even human. Nobby addressing you as 'Sir' may imply that you're male; then again, he just as often refers to you as "Sir, Madam or Thing".
  • Feelies: The game originally came packaged with a pair of 3D red/blue glasses and a physical copy of the Super-Galactic Traveler Magazine. Naturally, the 3D glasses are necessary for a puzzle to return to your home at the end, so if you got the game digitally, you better have a guide handy.. Or, in the 2017 version, the option is available to just skip that puzzle entirely.
  • Food as Bribe: In order to get the parrot to move, you have to bribe him with chicken. It's fairly easy to grab a chicken from the lower decks and carry it all the way to the parrot, but by the time you get there it's cold, and obviously the parrot doesn't like cold chicken...
  • Full Motion Video: Douglas Adams and Leovinus appear in this manner. Nobby plays with this, being a live-action face projected inside a CG glass ball.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Personal Electronic Thing, a combination of keyring, Bag of Holding, remote control, staff pager and conversation log.
    • Spontaneous Massive Existance Failure. The ship sailed from its space dock with great fanfare and promptly vanished.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The game spanned multiple CD-ROMs. Some batches went out with the final disc in the set missing. Okay, not technically a bug, per se, but certainly game-breaking. This is due to there being an actual game-breaking bug on the final disk in the first printing that was missing a file that had the game's interface with their Personal Electronic Thing which is necessary to do anything with your inventory or even save/quit the game!
  • Gargle Blaster: The BarBot asks for your help in making a fairly nasty one. Interestingly, if you ask him for an actual Gargle Blaster, he replies "Nobody likes a smart-ass". This is, in fact, a hint.
  • Ghost Ship: You, a flock of starlings, and a very vocal parrot are the only living things on-board.
  • Gravity Screw: The passage into Titania's chamber contains an inverse gravity field, so that the ceiling of the Central Well becomes the stairs down into the room, hidden under the huge chandelier in the middle.
  • Guide Dang It!: One review dubbed the game's difficulty "Impossible unless you're the author or a telepath". In particular, one feature of the PET is very easily overlooked — the ability to manually enter room codes in the 'Designer Room Numbers' menu. It's necessary to use this feature to find which one First Class stateroom out of a couple hundred is of interest to you.
  • Hammerspace: The PET inventory. This extends to the Succ-U-Bus item delivery system; no matter the size of the item, it will always compress into a cylinder the size of a drinks can that the Succ-U-Bus can swallow. This includes everything in size from napkins through to Antar Brobostigon, the project manager.
  • In Case of X, Break Glass: The SGT Lounge has a long stick behind the glass, and the hammer to break the glass is elsewhere. The long stick is to grab a lemon from the Promenade Deck's multi-season room. You need the parrot's perch, which isn't long enough to reach the lemon, in order to push the button on the case within which the hammer is ensconced. Only then can you obtain the Long Stick. It's that kind of a game.
  • It's All About Me: The DoorBot only comes down at the beginning of the game to make sure your house didn't scratch the paintwork on the ship when it crashed.
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: In order to obtain a hammer, you need to press a button with a long stick. However, in order to obtain a long stick behind glass, you must break the glass with a hammer. Fortunately, there's a parrot perch that you can use in place of the long stick. Unfortunately, the perch isn't quite long enough to get the lemon. You can, however, use it to get the hammer you'll need to break the glass and get the long stick.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Whenever an item can be taken that turns out to be one of Titania's body parts, a new one instantly grows back. Brobostigon handwaves this in one of his emails: Each body part has a security chip called the "Metamor" that causes the item to change shape when removed from Titania's core.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: The game originally came on three CDs. CD 3 is generally only used for the opening and the ending of the game, but once you reach First Class, this starts happening a lot, as all of the First Class areas — including the Bar, which is a Second Class area — require a change over to CD 1. Fortunately, later releases included the option of installing all the game files to the hard drive, with no discs needed whatsoever.
  • Logic Bomb: The BarBot is stuck in a recursive loop, since he lacks the ingredients necessary to make the Titanic Titillator.
  • Long List: The list of items pulled out of the Succ-U-Bus system on the Starlight Lines engineering log. These include:
    1,271 items of wearing apparel
    1 small ambassador
    1 copy "Bluffers' Guide to Control Engineering" (battered)
    1 death threat from Save The Nauga Association (unsigned)
    1 bundle love letters (Authenticated sender: Your tinky-winky Frou-Frou sugar-wugar kissy-poo, presumed to be an alias)
    1 showgirl from the Hotel Gat Girls Girls Girls Tropicana Lounge 'n' Bar Girls Girls Girls (bewildered but stoical)
  • Lower-Class Lout: Passengers in Super Galactic Traveller Class are treated this way. They have to find their own way to their room without assistance from the staff, each floor has two lobbies each with access to eighteen 'staterooms', which the passenger then has to assemble themselves, for way of entertainment each lobby has a single relaxation room in which there is a single chair which looks at a portrait, and each passenger gets a single chicken from the 'restaurant', which is basically just a chicken and sauce dispenser which ejects the chicken faster than it ever moved when it was alive.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: Most of the dialogue in the game runs on a system called "SpookiTalk" which functions a little like this, looking for particular phrasing and grammar from the player, checking the bot in question's cellpoint settings, and spitting out an appropriate response. There are hours of dialogue in the game, most of which will go unheard in a normal playthrough.
  • Missing Secret: The Second Class Canal is non-functional and off-limits to passengers, regardless of class. The novel explains that the ship's beauty salon and engine room are down there, though.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Of course you need to cover the chicken in mustard sauce before you send it... This is Lampshaded by one of the programmers in the strategy guide:
    Adam Shaikh (programmer): "'Well, obviously, the parrot will only eat chicken without tomato sauce — it would be stupid otherwise.' These were not the thoughts of a normal person."
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on whether or not you disarmed the bomb. There is a third ending in the game files with fireworks, implied to be the 'good' end (where the available endings are the 'neutral' and 'bad' endings).
  • No Animals Were Harmed: According to the credits, no starlings were harmed in the creation of the game.
  • Nobody Poops: At least, nobody of the upper classes, anyway. There are toilets in the Super Galactic Traveller Class rooms (which double as clothes washers) but conspicuously absent throughout the rest of the ship, including in the Second and First Class rooms. Marsinta specifically calls this out when you upgrade to First Class, telling you that nowhere in First Class will you find any of 'those nasty lavatory things'.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Deliberately, since the ship was planned to be scuttled from the beginning and corners were cut so it wouldn't be too expensive. Brobostigon gets Hoist by His Own Petard because of this, and additionally in the novel Scraliontis suffers a similarly Karmic Death.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: Played for Laughs in the pellerator, where just about the only thing that is allowed is standing or sitting with a perfectly passive expression.
    Marsinta: Don't get drunk in the bar, don't annoy the musicians, don't fiddle with the pellerator, don't touch the artwork, and if you go up to the promenade deck, don't scuff the woodwork. There you are, and it's better than you deserve. Lousy freeloaders.note 
  • Obvious Beta: In-Universe, this is the state of some parts of the ship. In particular, the ballroom is full of scaffolding, and the accessible area of the Promenade Deck is tiny, the rest of it being undecked and otherwise unfinished.
  • Old Soldier: Nobby, the LiftBot. Shout-Out to real life — ex-servicemen lift operators used to be a common sight in the UK.
    Nobby: Between ourselves I'd rather be trotting up the ha'aqa bin-j'Jabbli in my p'narma hat, heading for the rebel headquarters with a grenade under my q'jinjan.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Titania has the appearance of a blue metal woman with wing-shaped masses of cables coming out of her back, and artistic statues in her likeness (which also function as sensors) appear all over the ship. There are even lamps shaped like her, complete with glowing wings.
  • Player Nudge: All over the place.
    (fiddling with a bowl of liquorice) Not a bowl of pistachio nuts.
    BarBot: (while standing in front of Titania's vision centre) "Have you found Titania's vision centre yet?"
    Multiple characters: Nobody likes a smartass.
  • Point of No Return: When Titania is fully repaired, the elevator leading out of her secret room stops working.
    PET Text: "For mysterious and unknowable reasons, this lift has ceased functionality."
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: There is a talking parrot on board, located in the unfinished ballroom. It belonged to one of the people building the ship. He also apparently has an (invisible) microphone, as he can on occasion be heard cracking jokes while you're on the other side of the ship.
  • Press X to Die: You come across a button that says "Press to Disarm Bomb" — which arms it. If you actually wait long enough for the entire countdown from 1000 to expire, the bomb gets cold feet about exploding and restarts the countdown. Oddly enough, even though the bomb will never blow up during gameplay, it will explode in the ending FMV if it happens to be armed. At least it got the parrot, too.
    Bomb: "Now this is going to be a fairly large explosion, so everybody should stand back... oh, about twenty-two miles."
  • Pun: Occasionally, while you're in the bar, the parrot will interject with a 'Hey, Barman" joke — from the other side of the ship.
  • Recursive Reality: After inserting a disc into your computer to start the game, one of the things you must then do is insert a Starship Titanic disc into your computer to start the game.
  • Red Herring: Your assigned First Class stateroom. Unless it happens to be next to the only First Class stateroom of interest, there's no point in going there.
  • Resolved Noodle Incident: The whole story began as a footnote in Life, the Universe and Everything, the third book in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.
  • Rube Goldberg Machine: Though there aren't any actual machines on board, the puzzles often follow the logic of Rube Goldberg's contraptions.
  • Same Face, Different Name: The voice of the Bomb is credited to "Kim Bread", but it is unmistakably John Cleese.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Barbot after a particularly powerful cocktail and the Doorbot at random times during conversation.
  • Scenery Porn: The Art Deco-inspired locations are mostly static, but wonderful to look at.
  • Schizo Tech:
    • In a giant spaceship that can travel faster than light, there is a pneumatic tube delivery system and phonograph cylinders for music.
    • In the novel, Leovinus made the Succ-U-Bus system that way for safety reasons, although because corners were cut, they're not as smart as they were supposed to be.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: There is a bomb on board, in Titania's chambers. The button labeled "Press to disarm bomb" actually arms the thing. If you don't disable it before beating the game, the ship blows up in the ending.
  • Spoiler Cover: It had a strange twist on this: one particular puzzle, in the Music Room, can be easily solved by looking at the back of the game box, where the screenshot of that room shows the puzzle completed. However, this isn't a spoiler... it's the correct way to complete the puzzle, apart from the easy-to-miss fabric pattern of two chairs in the same room.
  • Starship Luxurious: Of course, since it's a cruise ship in space. Developer quotes in the strategy guide say they were intentionally trying to make the interior look like a hotel rather than a spaceship. You have to work your way up to First Class Passenger in order to solve the mystery, and your surroundings become increasingly luxurious as you advance through the game.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Repeatedly clicking on the bomb after arming it will cause it to become increasingly annoyed, eventually screaming at the player that "NO! MEANS! NO!" before breaking down sobbing. You can annoy it even further by hitting the glass-shielded button with a hammer you pick up later. Also, prodding the Maitre d'Bot's "Achilles' buttock" results in this.
  • Super Multipurpose Room: The cramped Super Galactic Traveler Class cabins are designed this way, with a variety of furniture available via your PET's remote control mode, though not all at once. You have to figure out which parts to deploy before you can properly unfold your bed and watch TV.
  • Tempting Fate: Starship Titanic, The ship that cannot possibly go wrong. Both Fentible and Marsinta comment on the irony, the former with embarrassment, the latter with derision.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Marsinta, the sarcastic, deliberately unhelpful DeskBot becomes extremely kind and gentle once you recalibrate her off-kilter personality settings. She can also be a Gossipy Hen if you ask her about some of the characters.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: The ship's bilge, for collecting unaddressed Succ-U-Bus packages, doesn't work until you unblock it by making it sneeze; you can still send items there, but they'll just pile up until you fix it. Fortunately, the item you need to do that can't be sent through the Succ-U-Bus system, because feathers make them sneeze. Unfortunately, you can send the whole parrot to the bilge before collecting a feather from it, leaving you unable to ever unblock the bilge and thus thoroughly stuck.
  • Variable Mix: Some of the background music changes between majestic and tinny, depending on which class of the ship you happen to be in.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • One of the ingredients for the Titanic Titillator is Puree of Starling. You get it by sucking a flock of starlings into a giant ventilation fan.
    • It's perfectly possible - and required - to put the Parrot into your inventory and send him through the Succ-U-Bus item delivery system.

The novelization has the further examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate Continuity: Rather obvious for the story itself, but one of the glaring points different from the game is how Scraliontis died: Where here he falls down the Central Well, in the game he died in a bowl of food in the 1st class restaraunt during the fight with Leovinus.
  • Disney Villain Death: Scraliontis falls to his death when he makes the mistake of leaning on a railing when attacked by the parrot, as they were poorly made due to cutting corners in the starship's development to "finish" it.
  • Heel Realization: As he is unable to communicate with Earthlings, Leovinus can only pass time in his cell in Oxfordshire police station by pondering his life, and comes to a realization about how much of a bad person he has become.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Yassaccan who looks over the captured protagonists is revealed to be a leader of a Yassaccan smuggling ring, who joined the others to board the starship in hopes of securing loot afterwards. As soon as this is revealed, the book notes that this is "another story" and he isn't mentioned again.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": By an ancient law, Blerontinian journalists are deemed to only go by "The Journalists", in order to make sure that a "cult of personality" doesn't build around them.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...:
    • When Lucy tells her name to The Journalist, he tells her that in his language her name is really funny, but refuses to tell her what it means.
    • The moment he sees the bomb, he pushes the "Press to Arm" button... because in his language, the label said "Please press dog" and he was wondering what the dog had to do with it.
  • Insurance Fraud: Starship's investors Scraliontis and Brobostigon arranged the ship's disappearance and upcoming detonation to collect its insurance money, as its massive scale proved to be a financial failure. This is also hinted at in the game's emails.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: When Lucy meets The Journalist for the first time, she finds him covered in (his own) blood and investigating Scraliontis's corpse. She comes to the conclusion that he is a murderer. The fact that he ties her down after she tries to run away from him doesn't help matters.
  • The Mole: In the end, the parrot is revealed to be an undercover agent working for the Yassaccans.
  • Planet of Hats: Yassacca, whose hat is building and repairing things. When a group of them attack the starship, they fire on it, and fix it immediately afterwards.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Thinking that the ship is about to blow up, Lucy jumps The Journalist's bones.
  • Similarly Named Works: Used In-universe. While being interrogated by Bolfass, The Journalist tells him that he can only give him his name, rank and number. Bolfass then tells him that "this isn't The Great Escape". A footnote regarding this statement says that he refers to a similarly named and plotted Yassaccan film. Which also stars Steve McQueen.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Early in the book, Nettie is depicted as a blonde bimbo. Then it turns out she is really smart, and gets even smarter when she is sucked into the black hole in the starship's engine room.
  • Translator Microbes: In various flavors.
    • When Dan asks how Fentible can speak English, the latter explains that the ship actually rearranges the passengers' brainwaves so that everyone speaks Blerontin language while on board.
    • Krage also hands out "Translatorspecs" so the humans can read the ship's signs.
    • Planetside, "Translation Blister" patches are used instead. At the start of the book, these are banned during the launch ceremony, so the Gat of Blerontin can't understand what a group of Yassacan protesters are saying.