REVIEW / Stranded (PC)

 

In Curve Digital’s new game Stranded, you play as an unnamed astronaut that has crash landed on a mysterious, sun-blasted wasteland of an alien planet.  This is an adventure game in the absolute purest sense of the genre that allows the player to explore cryptic temples and to cross wind-beaten expanses of alien landscape.  Waking from cryostasis to discover that your ship has crash landed and is unquestionably disabled on this uncharted planet, you must venture out into the elements to examine the damage that the impact has caused.  You are unaware of how long you have been here or even the cause of the crash, but you are painfully aware that your time alive is quickly running out.  Stranded is a return to the classic point and click adventure games that allows the player to discover the secrets that the planet holds without having to endure the tedium of fetch quests and character stats.

 

I hope insurance will cover these damages.

 

Stranded’s gameplay has been boiled down to the simplest form of interaction that a video game can possibly have and still be called a video game.  I’m not even quite sure, however, that you can even call Stranded a video game because there is absolutely nothing that you can interact with.  Gameplay consists solely of clicking a location some distance away from your character so that she/he will walk, very slowly, in that direction.  That’s it.  This adventure boils down to you just casually strolling around the twelve or so locals in an attempt to understand what the game is about and what it is that you should be doing.  In addition, there are no clues or hints that help you to determine where you should be going and what you should be doing and it took me awhile to figure that out.  You will come across other creatures but you can’t talk to them and they don’t interact with you.  You can choose to sleep in order for time to pass so that you can venture out in the daytime or in the nighttime as certain events will only happen during a certain time of day, but that is the limit to your interaction with anything in the game world.

 

Isn't this an old set from the movie "Alien?"

 

The graphics in Stranded harken back to the 8-bit/16-bit era of video games with its pixelated art.  The alien landscapes are actually very stunning and are a huge reason that anyone would be drawn to this game.  The details on the temples and in the barren landscapes are very well designed and are really cool to look at.  Clouds billow across the sky in the distance and the sunlight glints and dances on the water of a huge lake.  These fine details converge together to create a very interesting alien world that kept me wanting to see more as I made my way through the game.  The character models are also very well designed and take on a presence that helps to immerse you in the narrative.

 

Contemplating how to climb down that cliff and take a dip in the lake.

 

The sound in Stranded is also another very well done aspect of what this game presents to the player.  The soundtrack is comprised of two very interesting scores that play either during the daytime or during the nighttime.  They are altogether haunting yet they expertly help to set the tone of the adventure while keeping the direness of your immediate situation close to the front of your mind.  The sound effects are also excellent as footfalls across the hardscrabble landscape crackle aloud as well as the klaxon alarms that blare when the remaining systems on your ship are about to fail.  Both the soundtrack and the sound effects combine perfectly to create an atmosphere that gives the player the feeling of exploring a faraway planet that may contain dangerous alien creatures while reminding you that the situation could come to a disastrous end at any moment.

 

 

Regardless of the spectacular visuals and the enchanting musical score and sound effects, I cannot in good conscience recommend this game as it now stands.  I was able to complete the entire game in under twenty minutes.  This completion time even included the slow meandering walk of the main character across screens of alien landscape that seemed to be added just to make the playtime a little longer, or at least that is how it felt.  There is just not enough substance here to even really consider Stranded to be a video game, in the traditional sense.  Had the story been a little more fleshed out and allowed the player to interact with the environment and the other characters, this might have turned out to be something really special.  The intent of Curve Digital was to create an epic adventure that didn’t require the player to have to worry about completing meaningless quests and tinkering with ability stats in order to create the best character.  This could have been accomplished if a little more thought had gone into the mechanics of the game but they just ended up creating something that feels unfinished and unsatisfying.

 

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