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Falling Stars (PC) artwork

Falling Stars (PC) review

"Initially you'd be forgiven for thinking that the mechanics of gameplay are rather intricate, but this really isn't the case. The story's a standard good versus evil affair, and the in-game dress-up option is nothing beyond an annoyance."

There's something very beautiful about creating games for children. Whether it's one of Disney's utterly enthralling myriad of character-based adventures, or an example taken from the plethora of stunning cartoons there are in the world and turned into a game for kindergarteners... Turning the hobby of generations into a simple device born of the desire to trick your child into learning to read - well, it hardly needs to be said that this is a noble pursuit.

Falling Stars is the latest in a long line of games designed to further this goal.

Intended as a simple introduction to the world of role-playing games for young children, Falling Stars will see you taking on the character of Luna, a young female inhabitant of Dazzleon, the world in which this adventure is set.
Your partner, and defender, throughout this game will be Komi, a blue creature with the appearance of a mutated koala bear. Komi will do all the fighting in your stead, and has a variety of attributes which you'll need to bolster from time to time with skill points. He'll be completely dependent on you for healing and sustenance, and you'll make all the decisions when it comes to his development.

Although each battle is really rather simple, being as it is a case of either attacking or defending, it's over-explained in the in-game tutorial at the start of the first battle. Indeed, this is something of a theme in this title, right from the start when you take on your first go-fetch quest (the first of rather too many). This rather spoils the game, in that each mission, no matter how easy, holds around ten screens of over-the-top in-depth control explanation.

For example, within the first hour of the game, you'll have to save another character's kitten by helping it to jump onto a moving toy train. Although this is ultimately very simple to achieve (being merely a case of pressing the enter key at certain times), the tutorial saw fit to describe, in intricate detail, every little possibility that could prevent the kitten from jumping onto the train. During this same mission, two more options were presented in an obvious attempt to up the difficulty, but again each one was explained in entirely too much detail. This useless commentary extends to every little function of the game, and is presented to you every time you take on a task - there's no incentive to learn, and certainly no reason to try to remember. Exactly what this teaches to children is unclear. Laziness, perhaps?

Combat during the game operates in a system that stands somewhere between an action RPG and a turn-based RPG. There won't be any menus or anything here - your options are merely to attack or defend - but your opponent will wait for you to take your turn no matter how long you spend deciding. Each encounter with an enemy is also there for you to avoid, should you choose to do so - you'll see them from quite a distance away and it's easy to avoid running into enemies. You may decide to avoid all encounters altogether though, since every little battle takes some time to complete for no apparent reason.

Initially you'd be forgiven for thinking that the mechanics of gameplay are rather intricate, but this really isn't the case. The story's a standard good versus evil affair, and the in-game dress-up option is nothing beyond an annoyance. Some characters will hate you if you wear one outfit, but may adore you if you go home and select a new outfit to wear instead. If you're at the opposite end of the area to your house, this gets very old very fast as you continuously go home and try new outfits on to see if that works any better. None of these outfits offer any defensive perks, so there isn't much point to doing this. In fact, it all becomes one heck of a drag very quickly.

Actually, that last sentence really sums up this whole gaming experience: it's pleasant enough, but only in short bursts. Being aimed at children is no excuse for such shortcomings as the more successful stabs at the genre like Franklin the Turtle have shown. Falling Stars, is sadly a little too dull to achieve such a high level. It's clear that an RPG for a younger audience is needed within the gaming market, but to be a success, it'll need to be fun.

lisanne's avatar
Freelance review by Lisa Harrison (August 24, 2007)

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