Well, talk about the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been trying so hard for the best part of a year to find a horror game that suits my own personal problem-solving desires, while at the same time grips me with a solid storyline. Let me introduce you to Close To The Sun.
If you have ever thought, “What I need is a good first-person, story-led horror with plenty of jump scares to see me through Halloween and beyond” – then look no further. It dropped on consoles on 29th October.
The game is created by Wired Productions and takes inspiration from the likes of Bioshock with its art deco designs; showing signs reminiscent of other games such as Alien: Isolation where combat is not an option, your existence depends solely on your ability to survive.
Close To The Sun is set in the 19th Century, and the story gives you control of Rose, the journalist sister of a scientist called Ada who boarded a ship called the Helios to pursue experiments free from the constraints of politics and religion. The Helios sails international waters and was created by a certain well-known inventor and engineer of the time by the name of Nikola Tesla. Tesla openly recruits top scientists from across the globe and invites them aboard the Helios to experiment without having to worry about financial or moral restrictions, creating. Rose, our protagonist, receives a mysterious letter from Ada after years of non-contact, pleading for her sister’s help aboard the Helios.
The Prologue drops our gameplay to Rose reading this letter and the game allows the player to become familiar with the controls. They are very straightforward; the left joycon’s analogue stick is used for movement and strafing, and the right’s for moving the camera. You instantly become familiar with your action button, along with how to run and jump within minutes. Keep an eye out for collectibles throughout your journey aboard the Helios, which you can track your progress with the X button. The crucial thing about Close To The Sun though, is that Rose is weaponless, and when you get into chase scenes with psychopaths who are seemingly ALWAYS around trying to murder you, knowing where to find that all-important sprint button amongst the controls will be vital.
The game is slow to navigate and, even when running, I felt like the movement could have picked up a little more than it does. However, despite saying this I appreciate the intensity the slowness brings to building the atmosphere throughout. It certainly helps when the jump scares come into play. Just when you feel comfortable exploring your environment, BOOM, something or someone gets your heart racing again.
I have to be honest. The Switch version of Close To The Sun is limited somewhat in its graphical capabilities. Where the art deco style is awesome, the environment is visibly lacking a sharpness to it, particularly when moving the camera. The edges to surfaces and patterned walls within the Helios do suffer in low light. But when you’re engrossed in the storyline and trying not to be caught off-guard by the next jump scare, you do tend to zone out of focusing on the graphics.
What I love most about Close To The Sun is that the narrative and the voice acting is, quite simply, superb. Rose will often comment out loud her feelings and thoughts of her current surroundings or situations, which really adds depth to the immersion of the player into the game. It has been cleverly scripted and conversations between characters are both funny and emotional in equal measure. It really is a joy to play through.
The background music is perfectly suited to the slow-build gameplay and becomes intense in those scary and finger biting moments throughout the game. This is combined with that immersion of Rose’s reactions to her environment and the music perfectly suits the era in which the game is set.
Because Close To The Sun almost forces you to walk throughout, the game feels longer than it actually is when you really get invested in the storyline and start getting used to navigating the Helios. However all-in-all, the game is actually only a total of 5 hours.
The longevity of the game is completely dependant upon your playing style, though. Because I’m more of a completionist, I spent a lot of time traversing through the darkness in search of all of those collectibles so that I could boast that ‘100% completed’ vibe. It took me 9 hours to complete the game.
I don’t know how simply I can put this: Close To The Sun is brilliant. I’ve already gone back to play it and I’m still getting caught out by the jump scares and the wrong-turns when being chased. It’s bloody fantastic. The game encompasses all of the best parts of survival horror games, brings to life alternate realities with adaptations to non-fictional characters such as Tesla and his wacky inventions, and really grips you with the storyline. If you haven’t already got hold of it, go and get it.
However, I can’t just let the graphical deficiencies slide, so as much as I like the game and I do recommend it, I’ll be giving Close To The Sun a Thumb Culture Silver Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
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