It’s been 109 years to the day since the ship of dreams slipped beneath the waves of the Atlantic ocean. And what better way to honour the legacy of the 1,490–1,635 souls lost that fateful night than by talking about a 90s adventure game. Specifically, 1996’s Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time, one of the first games I owned for Windows ‘98.
Below contains spoilers for a game released in 1996.
In Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time you play the role of a British spy called Frank Carlson, who is living as a disgraced failure in 1942. But he gets the chance to retry his failed mission onboard RMS Titanic from an unlikely source, by being sent back in time via the Blitzkrieg.
Once back in 1912, Carlson wakes up in his cabin the same night that the ship will sink, so now it’s a race against time(™) to complete his mission and get off the ship. Alive! Which given 1,490–1,635 souls perished due to poor lifeboat planning is a tall order. Yet before he can head out, there’s a sudden knock on the cabin door and Smelthels, the Stewart, makes himself known (with the appropriate level of cattiness for his rank in society). After a verbal dressing down, because the agoraphobic Carlson has not left his cabin all voyage, Smethells gives him a message from his superior Penny Pringle to meet her in the ship’s Gym. He then offers Carlson his services as a tutorial before finishing with a stunning bit of historical anachronism.
Carlson meets with Penny, who gives him his mission briefing to recover a stolen book of Persian poetry called The Rubaiyat, which was nabbed by a shifty German diplomat called Colonial Zeitel. However, no one knows why the diplomat stole the book and smuggled it onto the ship so Carlson is also tasked with finding that out too. As British Intelligence didn’t get its shit together until 1939.
It is also brought up in the briefing that the stolen book was owned by a British Lord. So in actuality, the plot of the game is really about Sir Tofty-Pon Fiddlestocks bullying the forebearer of MI6 to go after his misplaced book! It’s probably a good thing nowadays that Lordships are dished out to old British actors once they hit a certain age threshold. Plus it only comes with a title, a small fancy ceremony with a matching medal rather than the power to send MI6 after a pool boy they suspect of fucking their pool boy.
While running around the ship like he has a rocket clutched between his arse cheeks, Carlson is accosted by Max Seidelmann. A boorish American businessman, who by happenstance introduces Carlson to Colonial Zeitel and his “young protege” Willi Von Haderlitz. A “young protege” who does not seem the least bit interested in the Colonial’s leering gaze. Zeitel then proceeds to passive-aggressively disrespect Carlson, the Titanic, and England, to his face for five. straight. minutes. All the time touting how great Germany and about how he wants to give it a soppy wet kiss on its no-no parts. He concludes with a warning to Carlson about wandering the ship (he shouldn’t do it), lest Zeitel will have to glare at him again and lecture him about German cheese farms.
German aggression notwithstanding, it’s pretty clear from the first three encounters that Carlson radiates unlikeability like a punctured butane tank. Everyone he comes near immediately wants to hurt him and treats him with pure disdain. Apart from one. One man. One officer. A Third Officer. Third Officer Morrow that is! Someone who didn’t know that the rigid structure of nineteen-hundreds society could, and would, melt away when he first meets his Carlson. His Carlson who came into his life at the wrong time but for one impossible moment showed him that he finally could be understood, as he lectures Carlson on his hatred of drinking, desk jobs, paperwork, and corporate espionage. Oddly specific topics that Carlson shares a kinship and an understanding with. The male and female pairings imposed on Morrow by 1912’s society are now for nought because he can conclusively see a world where same-sex partnering exists, and it is so beautiful. This love allows him to violates several White Star Line protocols in aid of Carlson’s quest (and hopes Carlson will, in turn, violate several of his own 😉).
Another who sees the sad sack that is Frank Carlson and decides to throw his life away is the “young protege” Willi Von Haderlitz. Who, after an hour of meeting Carlson, immediately flips on Zitiel (with little to no provocation) revealing that the stolen Rubaiyat will be exchanged for a painting with Top Secret British War Plans on the back. I know that excess and greed were features of the Edwardian era, but for the Ministry Of Defence to start drafting war plans on the backs of paintings is a level of untold extravagance expected more from the Tudors.
The painting itself is by a promising young artist called “Adolf Hitler” (yes, that one!). A painting that will become famous for surviving the disaster if Carlson leaves the ship with it. Catapulting Hitler to fame as a mediocre artist. That’s right. In the alternative timeline where Hitler doesn’t become the antithesis of human evil, his stain on history is so great, the game can only ever call his work “mediocre” at best. and rightly so! It’s then shown at the end of the game that thousands of lives are saved because Hitler didn’t become head Nazi, but I bet the small moustached tit was still throwing anti-Semitic slurs around like the free wine at his art shows.
Of course, ten minutes after Willi spills his guts he gets murdered by electrocution in the electric bath. The contraption made of water and electricity somehow had to be sabotaged (That right, Sabotaged!) to ruin Willi’s day. Luckily, Willi left Carlson clues for a scavenger hunt that leads him to a young lady called Claris Limehouse. Who Willi was touching with his Willi. She reveals that her ex-beau hid a secret notebook in the fourth (fake) smokestack of the ship. So Carlson then races to the top of the smokestack and finds the notebook. Just in time, as an exasperated Zitiel finally catch up to him.
An epic showdown ensues with Zitiel holding Carlson at gunpoint and demanding the notebook and, with zero provocation, he just tells Carlson what’s so special about it. Zitiel is the shittiest Non-Bond Bond villain ever! He reveals the notebook contains the names of Bolshevik leaders and in the hands of the Russian secret police, would lead to the secret executions of Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. Meaning… the Russian revolution would never occur and German could not benefit from the ensuing chaos in Europe. Also, it’s worth highlighting that everyone involved has lost interest in The Rubaiyat and Hitler’s shitty painting.
It’s during this tense battle of wits that the Titanic finally hits its Iceberg, to the relief of many teased by the games come-to-iceberg eyes. Carlson uses the distraction to leap into action and knocks Zitiel out with his Gas Pen (just roll with it), only for Carlson to be knocked out by Vlad and his big wrench. Now! I know I haven’t mentioned this character before now, mainly due to brevity because this article was already getting sort of long, but his questline involves Carlson fetching him a clean shirt. So I’ll be fucked if I am gonna give him more page space than he deserves!
An hour later, Penny Pringle comes across the unconscious Carlson and tells him the ship is sinking, to get the fuck over it, get up and wrap this shit up, pronto! It’s here at the end game we get to experience the sinking of the ship in heart-rendering detail. Ten people calmly milling around the lifeboats to the chorus of a five-second loop of people screaming.
Springing into action Carlson runs his last 200mph laps around the ship. Grabbing the book, the notebook and painting, before getting ready to leave. Along the way, he narrowly avoids smashing into Claris and tries to reason with her to leave the ship, but she refuses due to her own selfish reasons.
And the Rest, they say, is history…
|PLATFORMS||Microsoft Windows / Apple Macintosh|
|PUBLISHER||GTE Entertainment (United States)|
Europress (United Kingdom)