Starman is a very relaxing game.
After raging against them for the past few years, I find myself, once again, locked into a walkie-clickie-exploration puzzler. No, not the kind of game that makes your eyes roll into the back of your head out of sheer boredom, only to snap back into their proper place when Monday morning rolls back around. No, Starman is a bit different.
See, it’s funny, really. How some games seem to find you when you most need them. I went about 36 years of life on this planet without a nosebleed. 36 years! Through my early life as a vibrant rapscallion, to boxing, Army combatives training, and countless instances of plain old clumsiness. Then I came to Korea for the second time. Over the past ten months I have had about a dozen gushing nosebleeds. I went to see an occupational therapist and she told me a little secret.
I hate myself!
She said that I need to do more things to relax. To treat myself well. I have a collection of guided relaxation apps I can use. As useful as they were in the beginning, there are only so many times you can take the wrong turn down an old country road before it starts to blend into the background. The sand on the beach isn’t as lifelike and I can no longer see the forest for the trees (whatever that means).
So I turned to games. Battlefield 1? I’ve taken too many bayonets and actually broke my $150 mechanical keyboard playing Battlefield 1. Nope. That’s out. Escape from Tarkov? Nope. That game is more stressful than real life combat. That’s not a joke.
In the digital landscape of games that jockey for position as faster, more exciting, and more realistic than the last, Starman is a fairly refreshing entry that is downright somnambulant.
Hell, as soon as it starts, I can feel my shoulders drop and my near-permanently furrowed brow relaxes, leaving deep-seated permanent cracks in my face. My breathing slows to the point where I have to remind myself to suck in air at least three times a minute. My watch, a Garmin Fenix 5x, gives me an alert telling me to “MOVE!”.
At its core, Starman is a puzzle game of slow-paced exploration. As you sleepily move the diminutive protagonist around the map, you must always be on the watch for…um… nothing really.
We’re talking about a game where the only enemy is hypertension. Even if you are temporarily flummoxed by one of these puzzles, its probably because you fell asleep and woke up confused.
So what is the real point of Starman? If its loot you’re looking for, the only thing you gather here is butterflies. No, not in your stomach, silly! That would be FAR too stimulating. I’m talking about these butterflies:
The puzzles are fairly typical fare for a relaxing title like this, and are paced rather effectively to ensure that your hackles don’t get unnecessarily raised. Components of the puzzle are meted out slowly and deliberately. No run and gun here. No sweaty palms. No searching for hours for a document case hidden under a bed or deciphering what some Russian quest-giver is telling you to do (I’ve been playing Escape from Tarkov a bit too much).
Not here. Not only do you not have to figure out what someone is telling you, nobody really tells you anything. There is some text, yes, but it is more reminiscent of shopping for T-shirts at a Romanian super market; one of my favorite things to do in the world.
How difficult are these puzzles? I’ll show you.
Step one: walk around a dreamy landscape of mysterious yet decidedly Newtonian architecture. Wow, look at that wall!
Next, find a big cube and pick it up. This does not affect any of your stats or abilities. Because there are none.
Last, place the cube on a clearly marked tile. You’ll know which one it is, trust me.
And BOOM. You get a beautiful butterfly too add to your collection.
Then you lay your head back and fall asleep for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you’re like I am, you usually wake up from a nap in a cold sweat and with the feeling of mysterious terror gripping the back of your head. Now, use that fresh jolt of adrenaline to dive headlong into the next round of slow walking and block placing.
The verdict? Well, you don’t often get games where the point is to drive the player into a deep and dreamless sleep. You get plenty of games that do so by mistake, sure.
Why not? You can’t always play games that make you nervous to the point of tremors and forehead sweat. Sometimes you need to sit back and relax a bit. Give Starman a shot. You will get the most restful night of your life out of the deal.
If you’re like me and you work somewhat unpredictable hours while jet setting across the globe in search of foreign adversaries to kill, or maybe you just work a swing shift (sort of the same thing in my opinion), a good session of Starman just might set your sleep schedule straight. So ball up your feet like little fists, grab your MP5, and start up Starman, on your laptop, on your bed next to you so it doesn’t crash to the floor like a Nyquil bottle.