13/11/2019

⚡️ Close to the Sun | REVIEW | "Tesla’s Tortured Titanic Tale" ⚡️ #IndieGames #GameDev @WiredP

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A well-presented story and rich atmosphere are the highs here with some technical issues and somewhat flat gameplay bringing down a well-realised concept.

Rose Archer is a seemingly well-to-do young woman at the turn of the 20th century. The game begins with Rose receiving a letter from her sister, Ada, who is the lead researcher on Nikola Tesla’s enormous vessel, Helios.

The Helios is home to the greatest minds of the time and provides a seaborne fortress as well as seemingly unlimited finances so that the brainy bunch can study and muse to their heart’s content. Of course, judging from the tone of Ada’s letter, all is not well on the Helios and from the moment that Rose arrives on the seemingly desolate ship…things kick-off.

A first-person horror adventure title, the story of Close to the Sun follows Rose as she tries, desperately, to reach her sister on the labyrinthine boat. As you make your way through the ten chapters that make up the game (which takes around four hours or so to complete), you’ll be introduced to a handful of characters that emanate a surprisingly amount of emotion, even though most of the dialogue is delivered through a portable radio.
Although it’s not too hard to see where the plot is headed after a short while, the characters come across pretty well, thanks to the strong voice acting and genuinely touching / funny moments that reveal themselves as you traverse the many decks.

The gameplay is made up purely through pushing forwards towards your goal. The chapters take place in specific areas that can feel cavernous but are actually pretty linear with singular goals being the driving force.

I really think that this works in the games’ favour, as it keeps the focus on the story as opposed to aimless exploration, which, whilst expanding the running time of the title, would devolve the game into a ponderous walking simulator, a genre that Close to the Sun isn’t too far removed from.

As you move through the game, solving relatively simple puzzles and interacting with mostly unseen characters, there are some chase sequences that break up the gameplay.

Rose has no attacks whatsoever in the game (there is no inventory or HUD to speak of, either) and so she must simply peg it away from any pursuers. For the most part, these are fun, tense moments that last just the right amount of time and work in the games’ service as a way of breaking up roaming the different areas, solving puzzles.
The rich visuals in the game are let down somewhat by technical issues and that is a real shame. Quite often I’d walk into an enormous, open section and marvel at the architecture and attention to detail but be brought out of the immersion by a framerate that runs the gamut from silky smooth to juddering like a ghost in a horror film from 1998.

Also, the textures seem to load in a strange order, with signs being completely unreadable and various items seeming smudged until you’re so close to them that you feel you should at least buy them a drink, first.

Haunting, aching piano melodies make up the bulk of the soundtrack and really match the surroundings well, especially as the game takes on a darker tone in the middle section.

Close to the Sun was a fun game to play through, I really liked the setting, sound design and characters, although the story doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny and some motives are questionable, I was engaged until the end, although I admit it’s not a game I will probably replay again.

Beyond the collectables that scatter the game, giving background to the friction between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison as well as insight into their personalities; and some strange symbols etched onto certain items, the lack of a branching story or multiple ways to solve puzzles means that one play-through is all you really need to see most things that the game has to offer.
Summary
Whilst it probably won’t end up on any ‘Game of the Year’ lists, Close to the Sun is a relatively solid, atmospheric game that will moan and creak its way into your head.

Some well-earned jump-scares don’t feel relied-upon and it does make me look forward to what Storm in a Teacup do next as they clearly have a focus.
💧❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️💧

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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