Star Sky is the creation of Mårten Jonsson. It is a game in which, he himself, struggles to call it an actual game. In fact he prefers to call it an ‘interactive experience’ which is probably a more fitting description. Calling it a game is really doing it a disservice. Star Sky would best be described as art, from my perspective, a game that relies more on the experience rather than any actual input.
Like most of these ‘art’ games, everything is highly minimalistic. It uses the now almost-clichéd silhouetted foreground that suits the atmosphere well. I guess that’s why so many games use this style! The majority of the game is in monochrome with a striking splash of colour here and there to allow assets to truly stand out.
The gameplay is also simplistic in that the only two buttons that do anything are A and B, which is ‘walk’ and ‘run’, respectively. The analogue sticks do nothing; therefore you cannot walk backwards at all. Just keep on walking forwards.
You walk, and you walk. That’s pretty much the game. Walking from the beginning of the game to the end only takes a few minutes too. Still here? Good, because Star Sky is so much more than that. Walking along your way, you have the chance to activate certain ‘events’. You know when an event is around because you will here music fade in and if you’re able to activate it, little sparkles will flash around you.
There is no story to Star Sky. It’s all in your imagination. Triggering these events will cause you to create your own narrative in your head. What is this rose for? Where’s he going? Who is that person? You will only get out of it, what your imagination puts in.
Now, I don’t claim to be imaginative (I still pretend I’m Lu Bu from Dynasty Warriors if I have mop in my hand – so there’s that) but even I found myself writing my own narrative for the game in my head as I was playing. The events certainly help with this. They are often cute, sweet and often beautiful in their simplicity. It’s an experience with a lot of warmth and heart.
There are only 18 events to experience including multiple endings (so I’d rather not spoil any) but it is impossible to find all of them in one play through the game. Triggering one event can cause another event to be available later on, and vice versa; it can also make it impossible to see certain other events.
After the first three or so goes through the game, and experiencing it differently each time, you begin to lose the imaginative narration and commence the hunt for the rest of the events. Teasingly at the end of each run through you a shown a vague map, interpreting the game world where it highlight the events you experienced in that particular run, the events you have seen previously and slight hints towards those events you have yet to experience. It’s this map that drives you forward to keep playing and experimenting with the game to get those last remaining events.
There are a few key things that will help a lot in seeing a variety of different scenarios the biggest of which is the rose you are able to pick up early on (if you want to!).
Getting all of them will result in you being able to see the true ending to the game and, again, it’s open to your own interpretation but it is rather satisfying in its sweet simplicity. Just like the game as a whole.
Music plays an important part in the game, without it you will struggle to witness the incoming events. As stated before, it only plays as an indication of when an event is around and with so little music it is difficult to comment or criticise too much as it’s all part of the atmosphere. The silence only punctured by the night insects whirring away certainly gives it a certain ambience, which in turn adds to the significance of the music when it finally does play.
Star Sky is not a game for everyone (that’s actually a quote from the developer himself!). You need to know what you’re getting into before you sit down to experience it. This is an interactive experience to spark your imagination, warm your heart and say goodbye like a brief romance. If that’s not for you, there’s no shame in that, but for those who are in the right frame of mind and enjoyed games like Journey then you can certainly feel something from this.
Overall, I surprisingly enjoyed my hour and a half with Star Sky. With it originally being a mobile title ported to the Wii U, with an arts-y theme, I didn’t really have too many expectations going in but that all changed very quickly after playing through the first couple of goes. It’s not perfect, so don’t get me wrong, animations are a little too minimalistic and the screen get a little jittery later in the stage but it’s still an experience worth having.
- Has a certain sweetness and warmth to it
- Contrasting visuals can be rather beautiful
- A few technical problems