The 39 Steps (PC) Review

By Adam Riley 02.04.2013

Review for The 39 Steps on PC

Hands up who has heard of The 39 Steps. Anyone? There must be several hands raised high round about now because John Buchan's daring adventure tale has been adapted for stage, TV and the silver screen numerous times over, and dates back as far as 1915. Now, the yarn has been dragged into the modern era via a special project called Digital Adaptations. Tern Television set up a dedicated team, going by the name of Story Mechanics, to reinvigorate the old text, adding an interactive digital entertainment spin that aims bridge the gap between literature, film and gaming, alluring folk that have no inclination to read books into actually being swept up in the grand escapade. Intrigued by such a prospect, Cubed3 thought what better than to focus on The 39 Steps on PC!

Step into the world of espionage as the literary classic is transformed into something truly special. The 39 Steps portrays Europe on the verge of war during 1914, with spies at large everywhere. The focus is on a chap called Richard Hannay who has returned to London hoping for a fresh start after a long stay in Rhodesia, Africa. After encountering a spy that faked his death to avoid captors trying to prevent him sharing the news of a dastardly plot to murder Karolides - the Greek Premier - Hannay's life is turned upside down. Things become extremely uncomfortable when this mysterious rogue gentleman, Franklin P. Scudder, turns up dead in Hannay's flat a few days later and the Scottish expatriate decides it best to make a run from the authorities for fear of the elaborate tale spun by the freelance spy claiming to be part of a German ring named Black Stone is too unbelievable to prove his innocence. Thus, the adventure commences...

Rather than mooch off into a life of exile, forever on the run, Hannay chooses to delve further into the yarn spun by Scudder, first of all hiking it up from London to the vast openness of Scotland, deciphering the now deceased spy's notebook and enlisting help in the craftiest of manner in order to gradually build up a case for his innocence, whilst bringing the villains behind Scudder's death to justice and uncovering the full story behind what is going on.

Okay, now most people will have seen numerous films and TV shows where the 'man on the run' idea is used to great effect, and plenty of readers might be thinking that if reading a physical book seems boring, and even virtually flipping pages on a device like Kindle is somewhat of a snorefest, then why on Earth would The 39 Steps on PC be any more enticing? Well, simply put, Story Mechanics has spectacularly broken down the core elements of the gripping prose and expertly pieced everything back together in a mish-mash of styles that livens up the original work more so than could ever have been imagined.

Screenshot for The 39 Steps on PC

As Richard Hannay recounts the events of his misfortune in narration form, his words appear in snippets on the screen in various ways - traditionally one line on top of another, coming into distance from key parts of the screen, fading in slower than normal for intense moments of intrigue, and in all sorts of other ways that make the reading process lively. Also, text only progresses when swishing the mouse in a clockwise rotation, doing an anticlockwise spin to go back to a line missed, whilst a simple left-click progresses once a section of prose has reached its conclusion.

The 39 Steps offers up bite-sized elements of story and then breaks from the norm to offer up extra portions of background story that are all entirely optional. For instance, those wanting to learn more about a character met along the way can choose to click on key words that appear on the screen, yet others eager to press on to the next juicy twist can skip ahead. The same goes for exploration of areas; although not a 'game' in essence, there are elements of the point-and-click genre that creep in, and although not altering the course of the story itself, being able to scour certain scenes for clues that offer up bonus content makes for a far more immersive feel than could ever be achieved with a paperback book.

Those choosing to uncover all elements along the way, taking full advantage of the interactive world crafted for each scene, rather than simply quickly clicking through the narration segments and listening to the (fabulously acted) spoken aspects, will gain access to plenty of extras that may not always directly relate to the adventure, but sure do add great value to an already enthralling experience. It can be as small as a description of a character met on the journey, through to something as detailed as news stories of the time - with pertinent details clearly highlighted, but other interesting news merely placed for the reader's perusal and personal entertainment.

There are eight different story-telling mechanics in total, with twenty-five collectible items and sixteen awards to unlock along the way. Featuring hundreds of hand-painted digital environments that look beautiful throughout, mixed with great animation, subtle use of silhouetted characters during the theatrically-voiced sections, authentic materials from 1910s Britain, and regular 3D game engine elements to round off the package, The 39 Steps has clearly been carefully recreated with passion for the source material.

Screenshot for The 39 Steps on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The 39 Steps is the first in a planned series of digital recreations of classic texts, and if this first foray into the field of reinvigorating the world of prose is anything to go by, then the future is definitely bright for those that are either intrigued by books but have no time, or those that have lapsed from a former loved pastime. With various motions included during the tale that would suit stylus-based systems, it has to be wondered if there are plans to eventually transfer this to Wii U or even 3DS.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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