From the moment our intergalactic heroes, Danger Dan and Evo, quite literally crush the blossoming love between a dog and a sheep when they crash-land to their destination, you already have a fairly good idea that the rest of the game will follow in an equally daft manner. While Space Station Silicon Valley may not have groundbreaking graphics, what the game lacks in general technical polish it makes up for in abundant humour and silliness. And plenty of fart jokes.
The irreverent story tells of two space explorers that have set off on a mission to find a lost space station (that has miraculously reappeared after many years) and to uncover the mystery surrounding its return. The abandoned station, having been lost in the cosmos for thousands of years, has also somehow spawned its own peculiar mechanical life forms. It's these inhabitants of the planet that are the real stars of the show.
The main objective of the game is to re-assemble Evo's scattered body parts following the crash and escape from the station. Evo can 'possess' over 40 different creatures, with each having two unique abilities, whereas Dan instructs the player to complete various madcap objectives over the four "worlds" that cover the entire spacestation; Europe, Arctic, Desert and Jungle.
Each include around half a dozen self-contained areas containing missions that need to be completed before reaching the final area which contains the body part. Unfortunately, a collision bug in some copies of the game meant that it was impossible to pick up the final body item, and so a cheat code was required to see the very last level of the game.
The mission structure of Silicon Valley borrows from Super Mario 64, but compared to that game, its controls are often awkward, its camera clumsy and graphics, (although colourful and sharp), don't particularly stand out, especially looking back at them today. But for all of its technical shortcomings, the game has a genuine charm and frivolous attitude that is so sadly missing from many of today's games and indeed ones released back in 1998.
Whether it's collecting the severed heads of dead scientists, causing elephants to die of hysterical laughter, blowing up sewer rats with explosive shit or firing rockets at dozens of innocent sheep, the player is never certain what hybrid animal or surreal assignment is around the corner. Some seriously funky lift-music accompanies every level, each being as overwhelmingly hum-able as the next, and although it might sit at odds with the theme of the game - it somehow fits.
There are charming little touches of character animation from the way the animals come to life as you possess them, through to how they bounce along and tap their feet to the daft music. The missions in each level are varied enough and all animals offer a different way of attempting a given task. Away from wondering how to reach one of the many switches or other puzzle elements the game relies on, Silicon Valley also includes a pleasing variety of bonus games that involve different styles of gameplay. These include an on-the-rails shooting segment, a 3D flying section, a parody racing game called WalRace 64 (with walrus, see?) and even a camel vs. kangaroo beat-em-up mini-game.
However, the camera is at times frustratingly inept, remaining one of the many hundreds of non-Mario 64 games of the era that struggled to implement a decent camera system. It's also no secret that Silicon Valley is an testing little game at times, and all the slap-stick humour in the world is unlikely to prevent the player hurling the control pad at the furthest wall during the most infuriating sections. But as well as taxing the brain the game encourages the player to laugh, and despite its misgivings, Silicon Valley's diversity and juvenile sense of absurdity eventually win through.
Along with DMA's equally-overlooked Body Harvest, it's a title that deserved more attention than it received, but eagle-eyed retro enthusiasts shouldn't have problems acquiring this quirky gem for a mere few hundred pennies. And for the chance to listen to that funk-tastic music once again, it's got to be value for money.