All aboard the mysterious Helios! What’s going on in this massive utopic ship? Well, put on your best suit and find out in our Close to the Sun review.
To create a horror game is to create something that lingers in your brain for a long while. That’s at least what I do believe good horror should be: an experience that will bring chills down your spine just by remembering it. Not many games have managed to do this for me (aside from a certain title), but today’s title could be my next favorite spooky title. Hope you like sailing, otherwise, you’ll get seasick from our Close to the Sun review. All aboard, if you dare…
Somewhere, above the sea
Close to the Sun puts us inside the flesh and bone of Rose Archer, sister of the researcher Ada Archer. The former gets a letter from her sister telling her to take a look at some pretty weird things that are going on at ‘Helios’. This massive ship was built by none other than Nikola Tesla, and don’t worry; the game will make sure you know who built it. After arriving on the docking bay, we will use our ability to press forward on our controller to unwrap the mystery surrounding this eerie vessel.
I’m going to be honest with you: this game focus first and foremost on its narrative. And I have to admit that it’s not that great, to begin with. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that the moment you understand what’s happening (after less than 2 hours playing, you can figure it out), the sense of dread fades away really fast. And then, we have the elephant of the room: how this game approaches horror.
Bop it, Twist it, Drown it
You see, Close to the Sun sells itself as a horror game, yet it seems that they don’t know how to make this feeling work. And that’s due to two of its main issues: mechanics and puzzles.
In terms of mechanics, we only do two things: we run, and we press things (you can jump, but it’s just dumb to call that “jumping”). And that’s not an issue for me if the game does interesting stuff with that style of gameplay, but it never works as intended. The puzzles are just completely dull and boring, like some sort of mindless chore you have to go through in rather than interesting ways of offering the player a challenge. You press buttons, you turn valves, you turn arrows. Maybe you’ll have to remember a short combination of numbers, but that’s about it.
Mechanics are also something that doesn’t work as right as you may think. At times, the game will try to go full RE 6 “escape from the bad thing coming for you” mode. I think I’m being gentle by saying that these moments are the worst thing of the entire game. Not only running feels awful, but at times you will have to jump or take another route unless you want to see the most hilarious death scenes of 2019. These have Agony levels of quality, so I hope that can say how bad they are to watch. And now, we reach the worst part of this game: the visuals. And oh boy, do I have some things to say about the visuals.
If you know me, you should know by now that I don’t really give a flying turd about graphics. As long as a game works properly with its limitations, it can even look like a N64 title for all I care. But Close to the Sun has quite a huge flaw with how its enemies and characters look, and that may draw the player completely out of the experience.
Areas look gorgeous when the game wants you to look at them (if not, they will just make everything dark and call it a day), but that doesn’t happen with other character models. Their faces look like they were made on PS2 hardware, without enough detail to show emotions. This may sound like a minor nitpick, but you won’t be scared of a plastic mannequin running towards you with crappy animations. Oh, and the monsters? The most generic design I’ve seen in a horror game thus far.
It is true that at times you can feel tension while wandering the hallways of the Helios. However, all that sense of dread fades away really fast when you see the threat. The game tries to use the old tropes of loud sound with a high note, but that stops working after a couple of hours.
Water under the bridge
I could go on and on talking about the things Close to the Sun does wrong. The dull character faces, a plot that lacks engagement and sense after a while and some really boring action-esque moments are the most important issues. This game could have been an interesting talk about humanity and its constant greed for power and ambition, but now it sits as just another title that only tries to look pretty. Some scenes can look great, for sure, but if you are selling a narrative-driven horror video game without good horror or narrative, decent lightning and big areas are not enough.