A Charming Little Free To Play Game
When it comes to free to play games, there’s a certain stigma and expectation around this genre that makes a lot of gamers weary and justifiably suspicious to consider playing. With rampant microtransations, loot boxes and all manner of predatory tactics designed to get more money out of you, free to play games are one medium many steer clear of. While Starlit Adventures is not without its problems and includes a fair amount of microtransactions within its framework, there’s a vibrant, compelling and oftentimes challenging platformer at its heart with enough fun to be had, preventing the microtransactions from ever overwhelming the level design.
Split across 8 different worlds with 64 individual levels in total, Starlit Adventures sees you take control of Bo and Kikki, navigating a series of increasingly challenging levels from the top down. Along the way you’ll uncover all manner of obstacles including spikes, enemies and collectables including 3 stars and a sticker pack in each stage. The final level of each world sees you tackle a boss fight too but these are relatively straight forward and rely on the usual tropes you’d expect with a weak spot and repetitive attack patterns. The general set up of each level is simple enough to entice you in but some of the harder levels do require a fair amount of skill and are quite challenging to navigate. Of course, these are made easier by unlocking the more advanced suits on offer.
Each world has a unique aesthetic and visual design
It’s here where Starlit Adventures mixes things up with its multiple suits and different powers. Beginning with a simple archer suit that fires arrows, more suits are unlocked with more elaborate and creative designs including an electric suit that moves steel blocks and a dragon suit that blasts enemies with fire. This variety helps to keep Starlit interesting but it’s also where the game’s microtransactions begin to creep into the gameplay. Completing stages and unlocking chests gives treasure and tokens with the former exchanged in the form of experience points. These experience points then allow you to level up which unlocks a bonus stage which provides more tokens every level. These can in turn be used to unlock more suits to make the levels a little easier. With each suit costing around 350 tokens and a single level up giving anywhere between 30-45 tokens, it’s fair to say there’s a lot of grinding needed to unlock everything.
A fair warning to anyone determined to 100% complete this game – the only way to do this is by unlocking every single suit which could potentially set you back by around 20-30 hours of grinding the same levels over and over again…unless you decide to splash out the over-priced amount of £15.99 to unlock the total amount of tokens needed for every suit that is. That’s before 3 special suits priced £4.99 each and you can quickly see the prices stack up. While Starlit almost gets away with these tactics given it’s a free to play game, it’s also a little annoying that you can’t collect all the stars in the levels without getting every special suit.
There’s a whole host of different suits to unlock that each have their own abilities
Still, despite this there’s a decent amount of content here and the levels are well designed with each world varying in aesthetic and feel. From the lush jungle to the Egyptian desert, there’s a great variety of colours used that keeps the game from becoming stale. Some of the level design is pretty good too with teleporters, underwater segments and light logic-based puzzles thrown in some sections. While there isn’t anything here that’s particularly original or different from what’s been seen in other platformers, for a free to play there’s a surprising amount of thought put into the overall design of these levels.
The stickers we mentioned earlier play into the other extra goodies Starlit Adventures has to offer. These stickers can be used to fill a sticker album which grants bonus experience points, there’s also an Infinity Tower mode which essentially plays out like an endless runner, tackling a never-ending variety of levels, and also a whole bunch of challenges including defeating a certain number of enemies and collecting treasure. All of these extra little goodies are certainly a welcome addition, especially given this is a free to play title.
Some of the levels are pretty imaginative and well designed
Originally produced as a mobile game, Starlit Adventures’ PS4 port sees a few changes to its core structure including a multiplayer mode and a couple of tweaks to the overall gameplay. The multiplayer, in truth, is pretty poor and not recommended, hindering the overall experience more than it should. A static camera view sticks with 1 player too so if you’re lagging behind you’ll more than likely experience a cheap death thanks to the screen cutting you out of view.
When it comes down to it, Starlit Adventures is everything you’d expect from a free to play game but manages to do just enough to make it one actually worth playing. The charming aesthetic, some well designed levels and a relatively short run time make it worth checking out as a stop-gap between the big AAA titles. While the microtransactions are ever-present here, especially during the later worlds where things do become a lot more challenging, there’s enough in the core game to avoid you having to resort to pay your way to success. If you go in with low expectations you’re sure to have some fun with this one but those after the next platforming sensation will certainly be left wanting.
Verdict - 5.5/10