A weird one here at Pure PlayStation regarding our Close to the Sun review. The preview code to Storm In A Teacup’s creation was updated sometime last week to make the game its full build. Then reviewers and the like could go about their pre-release duties to form an opinion for their beloved readers. Only that update didn’t come through for me after manually checking updates and making sure it was still in my licenses. So I apologize for not having a Close to the Sun review out in time for the embargo. Luckily, with the official launch and a complete reinstallation, I was finally able to get a full release version of the game and play it nonstop. That way our viewers would know we care no matter what life throws our way. Turns out life threw me a four to five-hour experience I thought would take me a lot longer to get through.
Picking up where our Close to the Sun preview left off, Rose Archer has boarded the Helios, a massive ship housing some of the greatest minds in the world. Nikolai Tesla got all the fame and accreditation he deserved and more which led to an alternate history for our planet. One such alternative history involved Rose’s sister, Ada, who joined Tesla aboard his sea-faring excuse for a skyscraper. She mysteriously wrote Rose a letter which prompted our heroine to arrive greeted by death and blood. During the first three chapters of our preview, we learned that the ship was experimenting with near every aspect of science and inventiveness it could. After that, we learn that time travel and multiverse-like experiments also took place. The Helios was even partially powered by electricity harnessed from time itself.
Unfortunately, in this different version of the early 1900s, not everyone wanted Tesla to succeed due to political, societal, or personal reasons. The ship is soon sabotaged that tangles in a terrible way with those time machinations. Some scientists die immediately from the electricity radiating near everywhere, others go mad and do some killing themselves, and an eerie substance known as exotic energy permeates the decks. These blue mist clouds hold temporal anomalies and by that, I mean monstrous blue creatures who will eat your face off given the chance. Rose has to contend with all of this whether in the present or the past in the form of golden echos. These shimmering ghost types are recordings etched into time itself and play out at random times through the game.
Finding Ada and escaping the Helios is actually quite basic for a sci-fi thriller setup as this. Close to the Sun’s gameplay is closer to a walking simulator than an adventure game. Rose will be tasked with exploring mostly linear levels to find ways past doors, obstacles, broken machinery, and you get the picture. In doing this I also wouldn’t say it’s akin to puzzle-solving. It’s more of walking around and finding the information you need on objects/papers scattered throughout the journey. There are small nooks and crannies here and there to explore, but these instances will only act as lore building collectibles to find. A handful of moments will require Rose to run away from danger, however. This is done through linear maps as well and it’s relatively easy to find your way around. You won’t be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. And no before you ask there is no combat of any kind.
These simple gameplay mechanics are uplifted and brought to life thanks to incredible voice acting and level design. Character interactions were always great and the voice work was top notch. The banter between sane humans always had a grip on my ear. Helios might be the greatest character in Close to the Sun though. I’m not exaggerating when I use metaphors like skyscrapers. This ship is wonderfully designed with broken machines and electric coils everywhere, corpses and body parts strewn down every hallway, remnants of a grand, sprawling theater, and a perfect sci-fi setting to be had. I’d love to see a more involved sequel come to light that revolves around this ship. More than just in a walking simulator capacity too.
Another thing a sequel would help is explaining how exactly anything in this story worked. We’re told many times that scientific notes are essential to overcoming what has befallen the Helios and how Ada’s research is supremely important. The only problem is we’re never once explained why or how other than what amounts to “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.” Rose is literally a lap dog, who may question the why, but goes from A to B with little difficulty. Don’t get me wrong as the lore and intrigue are here, it just needs to be expanded on. Some touchups on the framerate dips and character animations would help to boot. Especially the latter as it can be embarrassingly inadequate half the time.
Close to the Sun PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Close to the Sun is a straightforward, uncomplicated sci-fi thriller with all the ups and downs one could expect. Straightforward in terms of linear, walking gameplay and uncomplicated in regards to how the plot does little to explain the whys or hows. Even so, the Helios mega-ship is one damn fine video game environment. I would love a chance to visit it again and actually get some proper answers. For now, potential answers are replaced with great character interactions and voice acting.
- Helios is an excellent video game setting
- Character interactions and voice acting are top-notch
- Lore and world-building are here
- Gameplay can be a little too basic sometimes which detracts from the scares
- Players are strung along with the promise of answers but they never come
- Minor framerate and character animation issues
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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