Even The Name Makes You Think Of Sleep
I don’t hate Starry Nights: Helix. Not because it’s a good game, or a game that really has any redeeming qualities whatsoever, but because hate is too strong an emotion. What this game inspires in me is apathy, in totality. When I think of my time spent with it, the first thing I think of is nothing. I couldn’t even remember its generic anime name without looking it up again.
In a world where Tyrian 2000 is free on GOG.com, there’s no reason to pay even the three dollar asking price for a shoot-em-up that’s this utterly mediocre.
Describing the gameplay of Starry Nights is difficult, but only because these reviews have a word count. If you’ve played any bullet hell sidescrolling shmup, you already know everything I could possibly tell you about this game. You move from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen shooting at enemies while dodging their attacks, occasionally finding the normal flow of gameplay interrupted by a profoundly forgettable boss battle of some kind. Unlike many shoot-em-ups, however, enemies leave if you don’t kill them quickly, meaning that you could presumably play the whole game killing nothing but the bosses. You’d miss out on the money and gems they drop, but those don’t seem to have any practical gameplay use. Starry Nights is content simply to present you with the things that other games have in them and assume that that’s enough for you to convince yourself that it’s just like those other games.
Stylish presentation can make up for mediocre gameplay, but you’ll find no such charm here. The enemies you face don’t seem to have any real cohesion to them, other than being “cute” – you’ll face everything from cactus people to robots to teddy bears dressed as Santa Claus, none of it offering any explanation as to why it’s there. What’s more, I can’t tell if the graphics are supposed to be pixel art or just badly-compressed hand-drawn animation – the player characters are definitely the former, but I think the enemies might be the latter? Whatever. If the art director (which is a nice thing to call the one guy at CFK Co., LTD with a copy of Photoshop) couldn’t be bothered to give a crap about Starry Nights: Helix I don’t see why I should bother trying to make sense of it.
So with anime graphics that make Kokurase’s look original and exciting and gameplay you could get through without trying, what exactly gives Starry Nights any sort of lasting appeal? Well, why don’t I let the developers themselves tell you. According to the Steam description, which I have not altered in any way:
“The retro-style Side Scroller shooting game with vivid storyline depicts fully charactered protagonists love affairs.! Colorfully themed game stages and variety of bosses infests here!”
Yes, the game’s trying to sell itself on its story. Unfortunately, I don’t feel qualified to tell you anything about it, because the English translation is absolute gibberish. I do know that the game opens with a character having the extremely banal realization that there’s no school today, immediately followed by a level where she’s floating above the ground launching energy at dinosaurs. So I think “disjointed” and “jarring” are fair words to use.
There’s four playable characters – Soa, Blue, Echo, and Joshua – but they don’t play that differently from each other and I couldn’t really tell you anything about any of them. Joshua’s name is the only one that’s an actual name, so that’s nice. The best thing I could say about the story – at least in the English version we were given code for – is that every use of the conjunction “but” has been replaced with the word “tush”, which is the most entertaining thing about the whole experience.
And that, honest to goodness, is all there really is to say about Starry Nights: Helix. Once you’ve sat through the first nonsensical cutscene and played one level of the game, you’ve experienced absolutely everything it has to offer. Its graphics are ugly but not offensively so, its characters complete non-entities, and its gameplay frequently manages to rise to the level of mediocrity. I didn’t hate it – its existence didn’t make me violently angry in the way Potato Thriller did – but I also didn’t enjoy it in the same way that I don’t particularly enjoy blinking. Starry Nights: Helix is a game about nothing, where nothing happens, and I look forward to immediately jettisoning everything about it from my mind to make room for, I dunno, some more Rogue One trivia or something.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: CFK Co., LTD; Developer: CFK Co., LTD ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 23, 2016 ; MSRP: $3.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Office Freakout given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.