Starseed Pilgrim ReviewAlex Rehnby
I was lucky enough to go into Starseed Pilgrim blind, on the recommendation of someone I trust. That is assuredly the best way to go into a game like this, a game that explains so little about itself, expecting the player to figure things out on his or her own. It isn't the first game to do this. Dark Souls, for example, is known for not telling you much directly. It tends to teach not through text, but through gameplay. This little 2D puzzle-platformer is built around the idea.
The game's little introduction tells you a few things. It tells you that you can jump. It tells you that you can dig. Downwards, or side-to-side. It tells you, finally, that you can plant seeds. Of some mysterious origin. The rest is for you and me to figure out. With a little spoiler warning going forwards, I'll share a few of my findings.
Starseed Pilgrim is a game about gardening. With a variety of plants to grow, each with their own unique behaviour, it's easy to create your very own garden. While this seemed somewhat pointless at first, it wasn't too long before I planted something high enough to see a little black star. What was this star? What could it do for me? To find out, I had to realize that the these plants, if used properly, could make me a path.
Starseed Pilgrim is a game about creating your own levels. Not through a level editor or anything of the sort, but through gameplay. With an ever-spreading darkness that will bring you into an alternate, monochrome world upon touch, it's essential to manage your blocky garden in such a way not only to survive, but to create a proper path to the exit, unlocked only by a key, which is what's to be found behind those stars, actually found in every direction, scattered across empty space.
Starseed Pilgrim is a game about creating your own world. This must have been the biggest revelation to me while playing the game. What was, before that point, the whole game to me, became almost a mini-game, a way of achieving points, used to plant your real garden, your permanent pathway to other little islands, with their own little verses of poetry and their own levels,. These levels slightly twist the way your plants work and occasionally play with physics a little.
It doesn't end there, but it's as far as I'll possibly go into today because Starseed Pilgrim is, in the end, a game about discovery. Even with its simplistic visuals and sound effects, the way it keeps so much of itself hidden below the surface makes it stand out. As to what it is, and who would enjoy it, I must be clear in saying that it's not action-packed. Some might even call it too slow. What I have to call it is an almost pure puzzle game, both because the basic gameplay is essentially closer to Tetris than any platformer, and because figuring the game out is a puzzle in and of itself. As a puzzle game, reliant on logic, memory, and of course discovery, Starseed Pilgrim is uniquely and immensely satisfying.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.