Sometimes games offer the player wish fulfillment: The ability to be a hero, face seemingly insurmountable odds, and still win the day. Other games invoke a sweaty-palmed, teeth-grinding stress worthy of the worst wearing-underwear-to-school nightmare. Your Star is the latter.
Part point-and-click, part puzzle exploration, part survival horror, the game is one hundred percent nerve-wracking.
Your Star tells the haunting tale of a young boy trapped in the ruins of his half-remembered home. He is searching for his lost sister using the light emanated by his tattered teddy. Monster shadows lurk in the dark, ready to consume the ephemeral illumination and drive the boy to madness.
Although saving his sister is the primary aim, to find her the boy must unlock his memories. Sinister characters block his efforts, and twisted riddles stand between him and the story of his past. Cleverness, endurance, and keen attention to detail are the keys to success.
Your Star isn’t a reflex-based game, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be painfully rushed most of the time. Three energy bars are to be monitored while playing: light, mind, and will. If light or mind deplete, the character dies. Will is a usable action and replenishes over time, while light drains over time. Mind is static, unless attacked.
The longer you’re in an area, the more monsters spawn. Certain types eat your light, others invade your mind. Killing them doesn’t prevent more from respawning. The clear strategy to survival is to get through each area quickly.
Draining resources aren’t your only problems. Several areas require you to solve timed puzzles or math riddles. The puzzles aren’t difficult, but the math problems can be challenging. If you spent your school years sweating over devious word problems in math class, you won't find this section fun. The answers aren’t multiple choice, you must solve the problem and know the answer. You don’t have time to break out the pen and paper, and if you can’t address the riddle in the allotted time, you lose a chunk of precious light.
When not facing mini-puzzles, you must search for clues that help decode the bigger puzzle. Who are you? Where are you? Where is your sister? What are these terrible things chasing you, and how can you get out alive?
Your Star uses unique, paper-drawn art that gives the environment a gritty feel to enhance its moody themes. The music and sound effects are surprisingly good considering how small-budget the rest of the game feels in comparison.
My first save game glitched after an update, and I was unable to play it. Attempts to load it just threw me back to the main screen. I hadn’t gotten very far, but considering the difficulty of this game, this could have been a tear-worthy event. The issue did not repeat after the first instance.
Saving after major events: After the first boss fight I was pushed into a riddle session without the option to save. I failed the riddle and died, so I had to repeat the boss fight. The second time I didn’t do as well as the first. Once I solved the riddle I was pushed into a new challenge without an opportunity to save. I went in the wrong direction at first, seriously depleting my resources. By the time I figured out where I needed to go, I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough energy to face other challenges, so I quit and had to restart both the boss fight and riddle session.
Repetitive gameplay is painful and unnecessary. Tedious replays don’t make the game more challenging; just more annoying. Since the game limits saves, the player is disincentivized from saving as often as possible, increasing the likelihood of needing to redo a section after an unfortunate death. Having a few autosaves after big events would reduce the grind.
Keymapping reminders: The control system for Your Star differs from any other game I’ve played. It doesn’t follow tradition systems where “Space” or “E” are action keys. It isn’t easy to remember which keys do what if you spend time away from the game. The only way to get a reminder is to restart the game and play through the beginning area again. This is a simple problem solved by having the key system available in the menu. Bonus points if the keys can be remapped.
Tension is the primary dynamic of Your Star. Your resources are constantly draining as your enemies gather. The longer it takes to find what you need, the stronger they grow and the weaker you become. Confusion is death. Hesitation is death. To be successful you must think quickly, but you’re still likely to die several times before completing the game.
Your Star isn’t intended to be a relaxing, casual game to be enjoyed between other, bigger things. It is ideal for gamers that love a challenge and who thrive under pressure.