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Raising a star

  • pianotm
  • 04/16/2015 05:40 AM
  • 2269 views
Name: Starbot

Developer: Cloudhime

Story: A beautiful homage to The Little Prince, this game makes excellent use of metaphor and analogy. A proper blending of science-fiction and fantasy, you play a robot that rescues and befriends a star, and travel with it in two worlds; one that feels old and tired and one filled with mystery and intrigue.

Writing: Beautiful and thought provoking. Also, originally in Spanish, I played the English translation, which is mostly well written but has a few sentences that don't quite parse properly. Knowing it's a translation, I paid them no mind. You play Starbot, a robot that isn't quite finished, built by Lili and Mat, two scientists, and I don't want to reveal any more than that about them because spoilers. Anyway, the game takes place in three locations. The first location is a satellite that Lili and Mat live on. The satellite is a typical use of the world in the sky trope, in which the city is basically made up of connected panels with houses on them floating in space. In this world, Starbot has to do errands to help Lily and Mat finish him. Whenever he gets a new piece, they have to shut him down to install it. When this happens, he moves on to the second world, which follows the dream land trope. Starbot visits this world periodically throughout the game, and this is where he learns from a "gardener" about growing star plants. Exploring this world, Starbot finds a lone star plant and nurtures it until it becomes a star. The third world is another satellite, following the endless city trope. Once Lili and Mat have finished Starbot, the star is now following him around and Lili suggests he take the star train to the satellite where she used to live and go to her lab where she had a star plant. This tale is filled with unusual, colorful characters, many of them quite genuine. Talking to the characters, you get a sense of whimsy. The whole thing has a very "Through the Looking Glass" quality to it, however, if you only speak to the character and perform your tasks, you miss the point of the narrative. Reading the notes in the empty pots changes the dynamic of the people around you. Sadness becomes happiness and joy turns to sorrow, and at least in one case, the empty pots provide an essential clue to progressing in the game.

Graphics: A monochrome color scheme with artwork that puts one in mind of the old Atari, Intellivision, Apple IIc, and Commodore 64 game machines. Everything is fairly basic but it all has a simple elegance to it. The important characters are recognizable and well defined, while other NPCs are peculiarly and vaguely shaped, fantastical creatures. Every world, whether it's the small satellite, the endless city, or the dream land, float in space, and everything that seems slightly unique has the habit of drawing your attention. The story wanders through the concepts of human excess and humanity's imbalance with the natural order, and through the meaning of life, and death, and most importantly cycles, which are endless.

Music: According to the credits, original compositions by Enderbabby. It's style is very 8-bit and NES, a style that fits perfectly to the game.

Gameplay: This is an adventure game that focuses on exploration and searching. There are no enemies and nothing to buy. As a game, there isn't much to do except gather information, go where you need to, and on occasion, get what you need to. There are no enemies and only two instances in which death becomes a possibility: encountering sloths in the dream land. The dream land, even being the dream of an AI, occasionally becomes seemingly nonsensical, but upon completion of each task, you'll find even the nonsense is actually strikingly linear and logical.

Conclusion: Starbot is a delightful short subject and I'm very pleased to have happened upon it. This game may not be for everyone, because there's very little gameplay going on here and most of it is story telling, though there is a fair amount of exploration. If the developer was hoping for a challenging game, he or she may consider adding puzzles and dangers. However, if the point was to tell a story and posit an age old philosophical conundrum, then he or she has succeeded marvelously. I certainly enjoyed it.

Posts

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thanks so much for the review!! i'm really flattered--and not just by your kind words: this review is pretty comprehensive, and i appreciate all the detail and thought you've put into it. i had intended for the game to feel thoughtful and relaxing, so the ease of gameplay and focus on dialogue was with purpose. i definitely agree though that it isn't for everyone.

i was really glad to read your observation on the life + death as well as the cycles: i'd consider that the most critical theme of starbot, and i'm glad it comes across. the egg lines are a terrible hint, and one of them only makes sense if you've watched utena. i'm curious if you're familiar with the little prince: i wandered from its themes a bit but i had aimed for its voice and general feeling as well. overall though, thank you so much! i'm glad you enjoyed the game, and i appreciate the time you took to write on it.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
28444
I'm afraid I haven't read the Little Prince, but I'm pretty sure it's the type of writing I'd enjoy.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
28444
I found it and read it. It was a charming tale, but I found it a little distressing and upsetting to read. I wonder what that says about me.
nhubi
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
11099
That you understood, one sees clearly only with the heart.
haha the ending upsets me like hell, but overall i find it a pretty charming read. it's very centering.

ALSO hilariously i just realized i never mentioned but: my first language is english. so is this game's. my writing needs a lot of clean up, and you're not the first to point it out.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
28444
It's not the ending so much. I mean, yes, it upset me, but not overly. In fact, when The Little Prince meets the snake, you kind of expect it. It was the talk about the roses and the one unique flower that really got to me.
OOOOOOOOOOO god that's my favorite theme/lesson from the book... i had meant to touch on it for my own ending (one star out of many empty ones) but didn't quite get it down.
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