Review – Star Sky (Apoch Plays)

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Review – Star Sky (Apoch Plays)
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Star Sky
Android, PC
Developer: JMJ Interactive, Mårten Jonsson
Publisher AGM Playism
October 23rd, 2015

Star Sky is the latest mobile title/port from developer Mårten Jonsson, better known for Meadowland and But the Paint a Universe. This new entry, released under the JMJ Interactive moniker, presents another casual walking simulator that focuses greatly on atmosphere more than gameplay. This one has also been released for PC users on the Steam marketplace through AGM Playism, a distributor known for issuing titles like One Way Heroics, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, Unholy Heights, and many more. But, with many a digital marketplace over saturated with walking simulators, both in high and low quality, does this new offering have anything to really justify throwing your money at, or is it one of the less memorable experiences you’ll have on either location for the style it presents itself as?

The premise behind Star Sky is a simple one. You take on the role of a man who is out for a late night stroll, and that’s it. There’s no hidden motives, you’re not running from anything or anyone, you just happen to be walking home and whatever happens happens. However, you do need to go in search of those things to happen. You’re can either run back home by holding the up key a risk running by these experiences entirely, or you can walk slowly and take things in, happening on the random event triggers along the way such as witnessing a fairy fly by, visiting friends for a party, falling in love, or even ascending to the clouds and making a new home there.

This is where the title becomes a little more like a puzzle. The core concept of gameplay stands as putting various elements and events together in certain orders to unlock other scenarios. In one instance, it needs to rain to take the lower path to the house, and in order to get a kiss you need to present the lady a rose, then stand with her in a certain spot to trigger a meteor to fly by in the background. These are two of the simple combinations, though a few are actually a bit tricky and can take a little while to figure out on your own, especially if not really keeping track of what you’ve already done beyond the list of potential events and endings that appears when your latest walk through finishes.

If you haven’t guessed, Star Sky carries itself as a walking simulator wearing a Limbo veil. Visually, the title is striking due to the contrast of the beautiful night-time backgrounds and deep silhouettes in the forefront. Some of the animations, however, do wind up a bit abrupt and look out-of-place with the sudden inclusion. This is mostly from the abrupt appearance of the white northern lights and the rainbow that gives the background more of a St. Patrick’s Day cartoonish look.

Other than the “magical music”, the score to Star Sky is easily the best part. This atmospheric title has a very soothing experience, though much of the audio is silence with random crickets or a bird call from time to time. It’s more a basic white noise generator, but it really does the trick, not to mention the way the additional music for unlockable events kicks in, you have to pay attention to it as to not miss anything. Not long after starting my venture in this title, Star Sky‘s audio began to put me to sleep with how serene and peaceful it all was, not to mention reminiscent of living in the rural territory that I did growing up. And huge departure from the major state road I currently live on now, cluttered with giant trucks and ignorantly loud motorcycles.

But, one thing that will surely irritate some gamers, is the lack of an options screen on PC. The title loads automatically in full screen, and you can’t opt into windowed mode. There’s also no explanation about the available controller scheme, which uses a different set up as opposed to the keyboard. Instead of up and right on the directional pad or analog stick, it’s b to walk and a to run on the Xbox 360 controller that was used. It also would have been nice to have a rebinding option, as that scheme just felt wrong. Also, for some reason I had to hit a random button to get the game to even acknowledge that a controller was being used in the first place. Star Sky also couldn’t be recorded for the above video in anything but record window, which usually seems to be in the coding, something that doesn’t quite seem right when the game first boots up on the computer in the first place. In fact, it seems like the game was bigger than what my monitor could handle, so having an option to choose monitor size and get the proper full screen would have a plus as well.

Star Sky may be an incredibly short game, but the whole experience is incredibly soothing. As someone who recently started college again and is struggling with one of the classes, I found myself at ease while playing this. What stress and tension was built up quickly drifted away by listening to the score for ways to trigger certain events in hopes to get the proper alternate endings, even with all the lights on. The price point is a bit steep, especially compared to the just over one dollar selling point on the Android marketplace [at the time of writing this article], but even a couple of dollars more on Steam is worth it if you don’t have a droid cell phone or tablet of some kind and enjoy atmospheric games or walking simulators like this. So, if you’re looking for a brief escape from the hardships of reality, or just looking for a casual game to lay down and play to help you unwind and pass out, Star Sky is right up your alley, though best left for a sale if you’re patient enough to wait for a good deal.

Overall Score: 7/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.