Falling Stars PC Review
As I’m sure you’re aware, games aimed at young children are often cheap and trashy. The development process is often rushed and the final game is nothing more than crappy merchandise bollocks to go with a film. With a few exceptions of course; Falling Stars is one of those exceptions. Sure it’s low budget, and it has its fair share of bugs and what not, but hey it’s not like “Ivolgamus” is a major league company. They set themselves the task of making an RPG that kids will both enjoy and understand. They even managed to squeeze in a few sneaky morals so fair play to ’em.
Anyone who’s played an RPG before, (all of you I hope) will have some sort of memory involving happily adventuring along, being killed in battle, then having to revert to an ancient save file. Well, this classic, but frustrating, mechanic has been scrapped along with some other challenging elements found in most RPG’s: there are no ‘game over’ screens that make you lose any progress, your health bar is automatically filled up after battle and the battles can be avoided instead of ‘random encounters’. You might be thinking, “It’s not a proper RPG then, is it?” Well then, answer me this – why is it I found myself hooked on levelling up and completing quests to gain better equipment? Either I’m as easily entertained as a six year old, or they managed to create a child friendly game, but keep it as addictive as a “grown up” RPG. Falling Stars is intended as a stepping stone toward the world of hardcore RPG gaming. I remember back when I was just a nipper, the confusion and frustration I had with my first RPG. I definitely would have preferred to have been shown the ropes this way, it’s all too common to see corporate money-grabbers take a loved cartoon character, slap together a crappy game and spew it out into faces of eager children. I feel that “Ivolgamus” has genuinely tried to create a game designed to entertain children rather than rob them of their pocket money, and I respect that.
Is it a proper meaty RPG to get yer teeth stuck into?
Unfortunately there’s not an amazing amount of content in Falling Stars: you’ll only see a handful of enemies; only have one character to level up; only have a small amount of areas to explore and a limited amount of quests, but what do you expect? It’s not a full-price game, and they were obviously on a tight budget. The game will cost you around £15, and takes around ten to fifteen hours for an experienced gamer to complete (yes I really did get that hooked on it). So, it’s my guess that the game’s lifespan can probably be doubled for a young’un.
What’s it about?
OK, so let me tell you about the charming world of Dazzleon. For a start, it’s not really a world, it’s a small village, but it’s a pleasant and welcoming village full of butterflies and little fluffy hoppity animals. The music in the game is delightful, however there are a very limited amount of tracks (I love the battle music though). The graphics in this game (technically speaking) ain’t amazing, but they fit, Dazzleon is made up of pretty sprites, bright colours and shiny things. The environments are lovely and make for a relaxing casual RPG; the character models are unimaginative at times, and often the face shown with the text doesn’t really match the character talking. For example the chap shown on the back of the box, Artus, is clearly male, yet from looking at his in-game character model, I’m not convinced. That’s not the only gender-bending I noticed; Bobo, who as far as I’m concerned is a female midget, is apparently a 9 year old boy, but never mind eh? Ok, I’ll fill you in on the story: You play the role of an ancient spirit (represented by a ball of light with a face) and you’re sent to investigate a dark power in Dazzleon by your boss, a moustachioed ball of light. In order to not confuse and frighten the villagers, you temporarily control the body of a young villager named Luna. After playing for a few minutes you find out who’s been fiddling with the dark power, Luna’s uncle Matt who’s turned green and warty from meddling with mystic magic. Matt’s the only bad guy in the game, and he’s far from wicked, just a bit naughty really. Anyway, turns out Matt is experimenting on animals, not for cosmetic research, but to increase their abilities in combat. The experiments are going wrong and the animals are turning into monsters! The RPG element to the game kicks off when you rescue one of these animals, and keep it as a pet. This little critter is Komi – the small blue Ewok look-a-like, shown on the front of the box. You train Komi up on the failed experiments (monsters) that Matt releases to aimlessly wander around Dazzleon (The bastard!). The ultimate goal of the game is to prove to Matt that training a pet with love and affection will make it stronger in the long run than any magic. Awww…
Is it an appropriate difficulty level for kids?
The battle system in the game is fairly basic, but quite unique. Komi and all his opponents have three attacks; a quick attack, a medium attack and a strong attack. The stronger the attack, the more action points it will cost, but wait, there’s an interesting twist. If you can guess which attack the enemy will use, then it will do little or no damage, also each enemy has a specific attack pattern, so after a while you’ll start to learn them. The battles get a lot easier when you start to memorise them (I just jotted them down because I’m lazy, but don’t tell little Timmy about that trick, I could see it being a way of improving your kid’s memory). I’m Sorry to state the obvious, but if the battles are too challenging, there’s always easy mode. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t lose game progress if you are beaten in combat – the monster just pinches a small amount of change for his trouble, then heads on his way. That’s not all there is to the battle system mind, as you progress through the game, spells become available for Komi. Luna also gets to lend a hand with potions and supporting magic. As Komi levels up, you choose how to upgrade his three skills; Strength, Agility, and Endurance. You even get to pick a few perks.
Are the mini-games crammed into the game for extra content, or are they relevant to your adventure?
I’d have to say that they are part of the game, rather than being crammed into it as extra content. You can gain moons (money, gold, rupees, whatever…) from quests and battles, but to afford the good equipment for Komi, you’ll need to play the mini-games. The mini-games are shaped into the game as part time work: collecting lilies out on the lake with a row boat; helping a kitty cat off a roof using a method of dropping pillows onto a moving toy train; and (bizarrely enough) vacuuming up radioactive waste! The games are well-made and surprisingly fun, they also reward you for finishing a mini-game quickly and/or professionally.
Do I look like I want to customise my character with interchangeable outfits?
Well whether you do or don’t, you’re gonna have to. For some unexplained reason, the villagers are particularly fussy about what you’re wearing; they won’t trade with you, offer you quests or let you play their mini-games, unless you’re dressed in an outfit they’re fond of! Seems a bit unreasonable to me, but it’s a mechanic the game uses so that when you unlock new outfits quests become available.
Will my kids enjoy this game, shut up, and leave me alone?
Hard to say. RPGs are well known to be addictive, and as I’ve mentioned Falling Stars is a great “My First RPG” for the little ‘uns. But it really depends if your child will enjoy any kind of RPG, even ones directly suitable for their age. One problem I think this game may encounter is the stubborn opinion of little boys. What I mean is, I remember when I was little, I had the inflexible opinion that “girls are smelly”. Considering that you are forced to play as a female character, who lives in a girly house full of plush fluffy pink things, this could be a problem. Komi however is not gender specific – nor is the rest of the game. If you’re into RPG gaming yourself, and you want to get your kid into it, to have a shared interest or bonding experience, it could be the best fifteen quid you ever spend.
It’s a real game, not a crappy spin-off.