Rockhead Games have recently released the cute-looking platform puzzler Starlit Adventures, featuring an adorable central pairing of Bo & Kikki, a little boy and a “Starlit” who’s best described as a rabbit with a star for a nose. The pair must make their way down through worlds to find gems, stars, stickers and keys.
The plot is wafer thin but then this is a game primarily for mobile. A mysterious big baddie looking like a nightmarish Furby appears and steals the stars from all the other Starlits where Bo & Kikki are living. The two decide they must suit up and rescue the stars for their friends. Bo & Kikki are an inseparable pair, with Bo riding Kikki’s back as they traverse by digging, planting bombs, jumping and shooting the various, rather cute, bad guys. Strange birds, bears and fish get in the way but most are easily disposed of Mario-style by jumping on their heads. Otherwise, Bo can throw a boomerang or fire arrows, depending on how Bo & Kikki are dressed.
You see, our adventurous twosome’s powers are very much down to how they’ve dressed for that level. There are lots of suits to unlock and try out with a range of powers. The default adventure suit allows you to throw the aforementioned boomerang whilst the archer suits replace your boomerang with a nifty bow. The bomber suits allow you to leave bombs to blow up blocks or to serve as a useful, if short-lived, platform for jumping. There’s also a suit for diving into deep-water in the surprisingly tough water levels, a flight suit and more besides, ranging up to the unicorn and dragon suits. These suits are unlocked through the collection of tokens.
Tokens are doled out throughout the level for opening chests and “levelling up”, though your characters have no other stats as such. You also get some tokens for playing the game each day and for achieving landmarks. But tokens are also lost for needing to continue, and the price to unlock a new suit is pretty steep. Of course, the game will let you spend real-world money to speed the process up with a microtransaction. Otherwise you’re limited to playing with those suits you can unlock the old-fashioned way, aside from the odd freebie level where the game lets you play with a suit you’ve not yet unlocked.
This is one of the many ways Starlit Adventures on Xbox One shows it’s made for mobile roots. There is also the screen format which only uses the middle portion of your screen. I’m blessed with a particularly large HD TV but it was a shame to have so much of the screen blank or wasted on scores. The UI could have been a lot better if it was just a bit bigger. The controls are usually fairly good though – Bo & Kikki don’t jump as high as you might have expected so gravity does a lot of the work. All levels progress downwards and you dig your way towards the end goal.
The game boasts up to four players co-op on the same screen. I’ve played this game with my wife on our TV and I have to say that the game doesn’t feel optimized for two players, let alone four. When one player moves lower than the other, the screen doesn’t zoom out, and instead the slower player is just not seen on the map. You do get teleported in if the other player reaches a checkpoint, but this can lead to a player getting killed because you couldn’t tell where you were. Then if either player dies, you both respawn to the last checkpoint, potentially paying a token or two for the privilege.
The difficulty level also ramps up quickly. Whilst this isn’t going to be much of a challenge for your seasoned platform or puzzle gamer, for me it went from very easy to quite hard to really challenging, and in places there were some maddeningly tricky parts. The water hazards and the risk of drowning are a particular problem as you don’t move well in the water, and if a friendly player happens to get in your way, you can drown as a result. And whilst there’s no friendly fire, you can be accidentally nudged off a cliff by a partner, so beware! There’s also a vexing issue with your characters looking very similar but for a small coloured marker to let you know which one you are.
At the end of each bright and colourful world, there’s a boss. These short boss fights see you needing to hit the larger enemy about four or five times. It’s your standard stuff of trying to memorize attack patterns and avoid being hit. Because there are no mushrooms or shields, if you get hit once, you’re done – back to the checkpoint you go.
For a game with such cute graphics and a plot that is totally safe for children, Starlit Adventures can be punishingly hard in places, and I do wonder if the simplicity of the story and the bright, colourful characters jar a bit with the difficulty in places. I think older children will find the game too cutesy but will be able to play it, whilst the younger ones who may love the idea of playing with mum or dad and adorable Starlits may find the game a bit too unforgiving in places.
The graphics are nice, with a simple, low-poly style, and are appealing to play with. At times the sprites are a bit small due to the small amount of screen used, and some of the detail gets lost. Occasionally it was hard to tell what was “spikes” and would result in instant death if you step on it, which resulted in the occasional frustrating respawn and more lost tokens. The game is suitable for children though, difficulty aside, with cute characters, nice and clean levels and no blood, gore or bad words.
Still, it’s hard not to feel that Starlit Adventures doesn’t really belong on Xbox One, or any other console for that matter. With its small play-area and microtransactions, as well as its somewhat muddled multiplayer gameplay which I can imagine becoming less fun with more players, you definitely don’t get the full experience. Of course, Starlit Adventures is free to pick up so there’s no harm in giving it a go to see how you get on with it. But it’ll take hours of honest grinding before you can unlock suits, and perhaps multiple playthroughs before you have them all, which I can’t really imagine doing. It’s a fun adventure but not one that will leave you wanting more. And with its financial model, the latter is exactly what Rockhead are hoping for.