In Starseed Pilgrim, the first thing you learn is that you can break blocks and plant seeds. You are then set upon a large, earthy block suspended in white void and expected to use your fresh and limited knowledge of this universe so far to explore away from your starting point. Different seeds grow at different speeds, shapes, directions, and wonderful sounds. You plant away and start to climb, sure without being sure that there must be something else in this vast emptiness besides yourself.
There is a challenge to the exploration, discovery, and successful return home – enough that even with the game's insistence on minimal to absent guidance, you'll want to make it at least once.
However, it is after surmounting this first hurdle that I no longer felt compelled to play, because the more I saw of Starseed Pilgrim, the more I recognized it as a solid proof of concept rather than a complete and satisfying game. Allow me to explain.
The blocks, the seeds, and the void are simple components: easily understood with some trial and error. These same elements, however, are also samey to a fault and become bland with overexposure. While the simplicity of the core mechanic is both visually and sonically polished, the simplicity of the game that contains it is lonely and boring; it feels incomplete. You will make your way from base block to base block with practiced efficiency, but there is less and less of a reason for you to do so. Exploration continues to reveal more of the same, as if the game had something against variety in design.
I have heard that, with some doing, you can indeed find the novel experiences that I expected as the rewards for my progress. I'm afraid that I just don't have the patience. I enjoy exploration for exploration's sake, but when a game tells me nothing and shows me even less, should I really be expected to keep at it?
Posted: February 23rd, 2014