Game: Star Story: The Horizon Escape
I’m a sucker for anything to do with space, so EvilCoGames’ cartoonish adventure about a space archaeologist battling space shrimps sounded too weird to resist. Star Story: The Horizon Escape isn’t spectacularly engrossing by any stretch of the imagination, but does manage to find its rhythm after a sluggish beginning. It’s purely mouse-based gameplay that mostly consists of turn-based battles, slightly too linear exploration, and crafting resources into weapons, bandages and so on. The story itself is a bit cliché—your spaceship crash landed on an unknown planet, forcing you (and your AI buddy V3R-DaNA) to survive seemingly insurmountable odds and escape in one piece. Fortunately, a refreshing twist exists within the combat department. Rather than using levelling up to propel progression like the typical RPG or MMO, Star Story: The Horizon Escape uses a personality ‘alignment scale’ that affects your character’s resolve, insight or goodwill depending on how you handle situations, and that does help break the linearity. It’s tied to higher level skill and weapon tiers, which are unlockable if you gather sufficient resources like iron, copper and irridium, so the game loop sits tightly in place.
Combat offers a nice repertoire of weapons including bare fists, smoke, a Blaster UX-n7 Minor and corrosion grenades, but tends to be too easy in the beginning. Since HP regenerates after you nap in your spaceship (accessible after any battle/puzzle solving encounter) it’s hard to enter a fight wildly unprepared, but beyond that, the aliens I was facing felt consistently underpowered. I was glad to see the difficulty level ramp up with later battles, not just because it better emphasises the importance of crafting and gathering resources, but because ultimately this is what ‘grindy’ RPGs rely on to keep them interesting – increasingly powerful enemies that sometimes give you a run for your money. Visually, the aliens (called ‘shrimps in the game) are grotesque and awesome-looking, and that’s true for the art direction as a whole. The backgrounds burst with colour and detail, and the music is smooth, atmospheric and creates a relaxing aura as you chew through those long passages of text.
There are many opportunities to solve puzzles, too, but like combat, they’re a bit on the easy side. Failing a puzzle three times can result in damage, which creates some tension and excitement initially. However, in my playthrough I encountered one particular puzzle repeated a couple of times with almost identical decoding methods, which made things feel predictable rather than enjoyable. Star Story: The Horizon Escape is mostly glitch-free, barring an isolated issue – usually you’re meant to be able to click on items in the environment to unearth hidden resources, but in my first run, clicking on them didn’t reveal anything; this problem didn’t manifest again but does require you to restart the game, which is no problem since the loading times are lightning-fast.
Despite its more redeeming qualities, Star Story: The Horizon Escape feels too easy. It’s a fun game to relax with, especially if you want something that’s sci-fi themed and has interesting, often funny dialogue, but it needs greater diversity in puzzle design and more engaging combat to capture player interest over a longer period of time.
Interested players can get stuck into Star Story: The Horizon Escape today for $9.99 USD (PC, Mac).
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.