STARSEED PILGRIM / Droqen / PC
Jo Jo Dancer your life is calling
Starseed Pilgrim comes to us by way of the Cult of Jonathan Blow. Blow didn't have anything to do with the game's development, but without his "celebrity" endorsement it may not have rose above the Great Indie Game Morass. I'm fairly certain it at least wouldn't be racking up 9/10 and 10/10 reviews on the usual mainstream sites that love to overrate anything that's "different" and uses vague symbolism or obfuscated puzzle mechanics.
You should be familiar with Blow by now - even though he's only managing a two game per decade pace at the moment - and his thinking this game is a brilliant idea should give you some idea of what to expect here. In short, Pretentiousness Ahoy. We've got a game world that looks like it was made in Klik n Play back in 1996, snatches of vague poetry floating around, and the game isn't going to bother to explain any of its mechanics or goals to you. Yep.
The funny thing is, the fundamental mechanics of the game are actually original and pretty good. The goal, as you're expected to find out simply by Fucking Around for roughly 20 to 60 minutes, is to collect and use seeds that build different types of blocks, and in turn use these blocks to explore an expansive (yet not particularly lively) world. Your efforts are hampered by The Creeping Darkness, however, which usually comes from somewhere near your starting point and slowly eats away at everything around you, including your block structures. When it touches you, or knocks a block structure out from under your feet, you're transported to an inverse world where you can't create blocks, and will eventually be kicked back to the starting point.
Apparently explaining any more of how the game works sets off some of its more unstable fanbase, but fuck them, they're pompous twats. So what you'll further discover from this point is that you start in a hub world, and the little "levels" you can duck into from there hold keys that you have to build paths to, then returning to the hub successfully allows you to build there with seeds you've found and eventually unlock doors that you find that lead to new levels and new playable doods with new abilities.
I actually thought all this was not a bad idea at all and even fairly entertaining. My only real issue with it is the intentional obfuscation of everything about how the game works -- why? What purpose does it serve? There's more than enough meat here to play the game with full knowledge of what you're supposed to be doing from the beginning. Was it just some sort of viral scheme to create a Fight Club-esque cult around the game? Are all the reviewers who refuse to expand on the game's mechanics simply afraid to admit they couldn't finish the game? Probably got started via the latter, now that I think about it. I didn't finish the game, I give no fucks. This is George Costanza, I fear no reprisal.
From a gameplay perspective, the only real issue I have with it is the randomness of the seeds you get. You can only get a certain amount of seeds once inside one of the levels that split off from the hub, and if you get the wrong ones, you're pretty much screwed.
So in the end, I actually like the concept, I just don't understand why it really needs this layer of hipster obscurantism or what it actually adds to the game. That, and the game really feels more like a proof-of-concept demo that someone would release to get Kickstarter backing rather than an actual finished product. They're asking $6 on Steam for it as I write this, which is well toward the reasonable end (and it's been in a couple of indie bundles as well), but I feel like asking for voluntary donations would have been more appropriate for something that's this experimental, unpolished and totally willing to waste the player's time.
* Gameplay Video