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Starman Review

Have you ever been ghost hunting? Or urban exploring? How about when you were younger — did you ever find yourself rummaging around a grandparent’s basement? Trying on moth-bitten clothes, fiddling with decades-old camera equipment? There are some specific feelings that are evoked when wandering an area forgotten in time, or handling objects which haven’t been used in decades.

There’s a melancholy sort of nostalgia that comes from standing in a room that for years bustled with people, but now sits silent, caked with dust and broken glass. An excitement from being someplace you’re probably not allowed, paired with the sadness of wondering what the people who loved this space would think now. These are the feelings nada studio looks to squeeze out of their freshman puzzle title Starman. Guide the titular character through a series of monochromatic levels, solving a variety of puzzles as you wonder what happened to this deserted world.  

Enter Starman, Waiting in the Sky

Starman, at its core, is a casual puzzle game. Bite-sized levels generally consist of one to three puzzles in increasing difficulty. These puzzles usually incorporate previously introduced mechanics, meshed with new ones introduced in that level. Align lasers to power lifts, place blocks to trigger pressure plates, rotate platforms to form paths. The puzzles in Starman are pretty straightforward, and many incorporate mechanics you are likely to have already run into in other games. In fact, none of the puzzles within Starman are too terribly difficult. Some you will see the answer to immediately, while the hardest might take a couple minutes of tinkering and reflection (as always, the line between easiest and hardest puzzles can be subjective depending on your skill level with puzzle games).

While one or two puzzles might take you some time, none feel as though they’re meant to stump players for days. This makes sense, as the game is quoted to “keep you playing between 1.5h and 3h” (it took me about two hours to beat). Starman is currently available through the Apple app store or via Steam. This makes Starman a nice bite-sized multi-session mobile game, or a comfortable single-sitting afternoon PC game. Either way, Starman is difficult enough to be interesting, but not so much as to be infuriating.

Moonage Grey-Dream

It won’t take long in Starman before you notice the care that went into the title’s style and esthetic. Every corner of Starman, from the levels to the menus, flows together to form a cohesive visual experience. Furthermore, it will come as no surprise that brothers-turned-developers Sergio and Jacabo Abril have backgrounds in architecture. This architectural background is prevalent in Starman, from the use of symmetry and verticality, to the choice of isometric viewpoint. There’s a cleanliness and precision about Starman that can almost be called comforting.

It can, at times, feel more like you’re strolling through a piece of modern digital art, rather than playing a puzzle game. Even the chaos in Starman feels calculated to achieve maximum effect. Cracks in the floor and water-logged debris are all placed with near-obsessive precision. Even when pausing to view something simple like bubbles appearing in a pond, you can tell meticulous detail went into planning the ideal timing and spacing of each bubble. Overall, this helps to elevate and enhance the puzzle solving experience without distracting from it.

Starman Really Makes the Grade

As mentioned previously, Starman is a rather short game. While this might be a point of disappointment for some, I think there is something to be said for short, concise games that accomplish what they set out to do (as they say, always better to leave them wanting more than to overstay your welcome). That said, it would have been nice to have a few more story-related breadcrumbs to stoke the imagination. While players can pick up hints of a plot from their surroundings, a lot of the game’s “story” is left to the player’s interpretation. So much of the story and world of Starman is left ambiguous, it can feel as if Starman is a casual puzzle title first, and a subtle storytelling experience second (for better or worse).

Aside from being a bit short, and a little loose on story, there are few faults to be found with Starman. This puzzler is incredibly clean and consistent both visually and mechanically. There were, of course, a few times where I found myself struggling to position myself correctly, or place a block on a platform, but these were minor inconveniences. If there is one quality of life item to be requested, it would be to increase the character’s movement speed. It was a bit frustrating knowing what to do, but needing to wait for my character to hoof it back-and-forth across the screen.

7

The Verdict: Great

Starman is the definition of a short and sweet casual puzzle entry, taking clear influence from similar games like Monument Valley, while creating something unique and different. It features clever but not infuriating puzzles, a clean and eerie environment, and just enough story to let your imagination fill in the gaps. As you progress through Starman,gathering the last bits of light its world has to offer, pause and think who might have inhabited it before you, and what they might think of its dilapidated state (and your intrusion) now.

Matthew Watson
Written by
July 17, 2018
Published in Strategy

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Matt finds himself thinking about gaming most of the day. If he's not glued to his PC searching for the next great indie game; he's likely explaining the rules to some complex board game he's talked his friends into. Matt graduated from Marymount University in Arlington,VA with a Bachelor of Arts. Originally from Maryland, Matt currently lives in Austin,TX where he provides customer support for Electronic Arts. As such, Matt will not be reviewing any EA games we happen to get our hands on.

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