Indie developers pride themselves on breaking our expectations of game mechanics by flat-out doing things differently. Sometimes it works, too. However, there are occasions when the function of design contribute to the value and purpose of the subject. Instructions are integrated with the level design and after several sessions I was able to make just the barest sense of them.
Experimental games have limited credence with me. Structure has its benefits, and so do clear instructions. Released in 2013 on the now thriving Indie scene available on Steam, Starseed Pilgrim is an exercise in minimalist presentation and resource management. In this game you are a ‘symphonic gardener’, but so help me I wasn’t able to determine what the tools were, much less how they functioned beyond movement and block removal/placement.
The entire game is presented in a single screen with visual and audio indicators of your degree of success. Our nameless, 8-pixel tall caretaker is constantly pursued by an ink-black space that results in a reset of your garden when caught. A numeric counter of–your hearts, as it turns out–ticks down to zero over a fixed period of time, and your only hope is to grow more and collect them… I think.
Logic puzzles are a hobby of mine, but only when they make sense. Crazy, right? A legend of your inventory and their attributes would have improved my understanding greatly… not to mention more accurately phrased goals and consequences.
I have over the years enjoyed a few artistic interactive experiences in the past, and that’s usually all they are. If you’re feeling rebellious and anxious with mainstream, this is your bag – or, garden. For my entertainment, too much pruning of useful information took place here.
What’s fun: Discovery of unique mechanics is fascinating. Graphics and audio are refreshingly simple.
What’s not: Ironically, graphics and audio communicate function and mechanic far better than the handful of words that appear during play.
Recommendation: Know your mark before you buy. This is an information-sparse puzzler with perplexing logic. If this style of play interests you, it’s worth every bit the asking price.