Solitary Stars

Solitary Stars is a hyperlink fiction game.

I was tempted to write that the game circles around questions about the nature of memories, remorse, relations, or the entanglement of individuals within an imperfect world – and this would have been somewhat true, as these themes are present, yet it also would not do justice to this game: Solitary Stars feels much more like a window to its own little cosmos, and evades simple interpretations not only through the amount of different ideas and topics that are touched, but also through a skillful utilization of the hypertext technique.

The game is set in an shadowy post-war country reigned with an iron hand by a small elite – the protagonist, once member of a sect, is invited by an old, rather unpleasant acquaintance, and lured in by the promise of meeting the love interest of their youth, which they were never able to fully overcome. While waiting for the encounter, we learn about the surrounding world, and the protagonists biography, relationships, ideals, and beliefs. Different choices are at hand, and some of them will greatly influence the personality and interactions of the protagonist (and thus the story the player encounters) – the end, however, will always be the same.

Neither does the dynamic story make the game or its message arbitrary at all, as this piece doesn’t ask “What would you do?” but rather, in a honest way, “What does matter?”. Nor do the melancholic and dark tones ever change into nihilism: Instead, the game holds a slightly distorting mirror towards us, in which the grotesque elements of our own world are emphasized; on this stage, the human nature is constructed, explored, questioned, and turned into its own cosmos. This humane and silent approach opposes the cynicism with which most contemporary mainstream fantasy stories appear to be charged. This might be an attempt to catch the zeitgeist and think about important matters, while practically evading the actual issues and causes of global crises such as capitalism, (post-)colonialism, chauvinism, racism, the exploitation of humans, animals and landscapes, and so on.

The game has a rather large scope, and you should expect to play around an hour for a single play-through. The writing is superb, and utilizes the hypertext technique in an all natural, coherent way. Solitary Stars is clearly an attempt to use video games as a medium for serious narrative art (or to extend prosa by digital means), and it’s very successful at doing so. The developer warned me that there are game breaking bugs (locking you on pages), but I didn’t encountered them. Beneath the main game there are also some illustrations available on the Itch-Page.

Solitary Stars is built upon Inform7, a language specialized on supporting interactive fiction, that seems to go way back to the very beginnings of video gaming. It was created by Stephané F., who also created „The liberation„, a game reviewed on this blog a few weeks ago.

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