independent

Monday 14 October 2019

Looking great does not always make a good game

Close to the Sun (PC/Xbox One/PS4), 6/10

The creators of Close to the Sun have not managed to avoid the familiar pitfall of favouring style over substance
The creators of Close to the Sun have not managed to avoid the familiar pitfall of favouring style over substance

Chris Hayes - Game Review

I can't be the only one who remembers the leaps and bounds made in photorealistic 3D rendering technology and wondering at the future face of gaming once we could do this in real time.

Well, it just so turns out that simply looking great does not a good game make. All too many developers have fallen to the familiar pitfall of favouring style over substance, and unfortunately the creators of Close to the Sun have not managed to completely avoid this folly.

Close to the Sun is an unabashed member of the often unfairly maligned 'walking simulator' genre. You play as Rose, another of a long line of journalists in the horror genre who must have missed the memo about the fate of the curious cat. Rose's inquisitiveness leads her aboard Nikola Tesla's city-sized ship - the Helios - in order to find and rescue her sister. While the setting may be a novel one, the premise certainly is not, though the story does redeem itself by the time it wraps up.

Close to the Sun wears its inspirations so firmly emblazoned on its sleeve that you would be forgiven for accusations of plagiarisms. There are moments in this game that bear such a brazen resemblance to the BioShock series that it borders on disrespect. Admittedly, the technical prowess is undeniable, as the game world is absolutely beautiful, but the art direction and general aesthetic left a rather bitter taste in my mouth.

Close to the Sun will have you spend most of your time scouting around the detailed world for various clues that will unravel the mystery of your sister's whereabouts. If you don't mind a bit of a slow burner and the horrible, nagging tension evoked by the horror genre, then this game will be right up your street.

There are times, however, that the gameplay devolves into sheer tedium. Poorly-contrived puzzles and cheap misdirection may leave you stranded, only to finally happen upon a solution through trial-and-error after long periods of stagnation. More than once, puzzle solutions require you to be gazing at exact spots once you enter a room, or to commit to memory apparently inconsequential moments and patterns in the game.

Close to the Sun seems to have a hard time figuring out what it's actually doing. Does it have enough novelty to stand on its own two feet, or can it not be separated from the two games that so obviously inspire it - Bioshock and Outlast. I personally think it is best when looked at from the alternate history viewpoint and I'm sure Tesla nuts will relish the opportunity to explore what is partly a loving dedication to a great scientist and all that he inspired.

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