Is there any greater sight than looking up at a clear night sky and seeing the twinkling stars above you? This glorious sight fills your heart with joy and shows how small our little planet is in the great scheme of things. Could you imagine looking up and seeing nothing? The jewels of the night sky missing, stolen from your life forever more! This nightmarish concept is the backbone of the plot of my latest review title Starlit Adventures.
Developed and published by Rockhead Studios, this free-to-play single-player platform action adventure is a colourful family friendly affair. Originally released in May 2018 for PlayStation, its popularity ensured that it would port to Xbox One, and it eventually arrived in July 2020. It’s a title that is easy to pick up and play and is aimed mainly at lower skill level gamers and a younger audience.
A cute story.
The plot oozes charm and a sickening cuteness that puts most kid’s TV programs to shame. Colourful and adorable creatures live peacefully in their own world when an evil bunny-like monster known as Nuru appears and steals all but one star that these animals protect. His disgusting actions rid the sky of its stunning sparkle and allure, and it’s your responsibility to right this wrong and begin an adventure to return the stolen stars back to the night skies.
Two game modes and 64 levels stand between you and your destiny of destroying the menace known as Nuru.
The story mode.
It follows a standard platform adventure routine. Grab the collectables and take on a main boss at the end of each world. A variety of unique gameplay mechanics must be understood and used correctly to progress. You may prepare for a stage incorrectly, and have the wrong tools for the job at hand, but it matters not. You merely have to reach your goal, alter your approach and outfit and start again.
It’s exactly as it sounds, it’s an endless trial of monsters, treasure, and challenges. It compliments the main game perfectly and acts as a welcome distraction from the demands of the story mode.
Whenever you have a free-to-play game, there is always a catch. It’s the pay-to-play wall that surrounds nearly every aspect of the gameplay. Levels can be opened up, but this costs in game currency. Costumes that are required to progress also cost you money. It’s an unnecessary evil, especially in a family “friendly” title. Credit can be purchased for minimal sums of cash, but the transactions soon add up. You can ignore all of this and earn your coin by levelling up and grinding results. However, I don’t see many children having the patience to replay levels merely to buy another cosmetic item.
Costumes and collectables.
This cute platform adventure is as much about getting to the end of each stage as it is the costume you wear to get there. Each level has; jewels hidden behind destructible blocks, stars to find, monsters to kill, keys to collect and sticker packs to grab. This is the point where the game deviates from its entry level player model, as a lot of these collectables require planning and skill to collect.
The correct choice of costumes matters, as the wrong one could prevent you from progressing. Each different outfit allows for a special skill to be used, whether it is; throwing bombs, dropping fire, shooting electricity or flying. Each has its use on every stage, and some levels can only be fully overcome when the correct outfit is selected. There is a catch, however, as most of them are hidden behind the aforementioned pay-to-play model, or require an awful lot of grinding to get them for free. It’s a shame as it taints a great concept with an unfair approach.
A colour explosion.
For a game that has been out for 3 years, it looks great. Well designed levels are met with detailed and cute character models. A vivid colour palette and varied backdrops make this a colour explosion with little visual repetition. The animation and movement is smooth, and I noted no issues while playing, even when the screen was filled with enemies and treasure.
Whenever I play a cutesy family friendly game, I expect a light-hearted and wholesome soundtrack to match the theme. That is exactly what is delivered throughout. A nice pace and tone flows alongside the action, giving everything a sickly sweet aura. The sound effects are crass, in your face, and will make your ears ring. Shrieks, squeals and high-pitched noises accompany most things. Every part reminded me of The Sims, and though it wasn’t as memorable, it was just as enjoyable to listen to.
Different costumes, same controls.
No matter the outfit you wear, the approach is exactly the same. Jump, shoot, special attack and destroy the blocks. Once you understand the fundamentals, it is easy to play. Certain costumes have their own special attacks, but you’ll learn how to use those as and when the time comes. The simple approach means a child can play this with no guidance or supervision.
With so many outfits to choose from, collectables to find and high scores to beat, this has plenty of replay value. A friend’s leaderboard allows you to compete with online friends, and the infinite tower pushes you to keep going further. If you combine this with the grind for in game currency, there are a lot of reasons to return to play.
Does the pay wall ruin it?
I despise microtransactions, and would rather pay for a game outright. I don’t mind cosmetic items that offer no stat boosts, but necessary equipment hidden behind a pay wall should not be allowed. Luckily, the in game currency can be gained relatively easily. Even with its pay-to-play model, I recommend this as it’s fun to play and offers some challenge for younger players. You can download a copy here! A starless sky is never a good thing. Begin your adventure, grab each stolen item and defeat Nuru once and for all!