I rarely touch Free-to-Play games on mobile, PC, or consoles, as they’re more often than not a shallow bare-bones product that starts off strong but quickly becomes a chore, pushing you to buy the included MicroTransactions in order to keep the pace of the game at a steady level. However, my perception of the format was flipped when I had the chance to play and review Starlit Adventures on the PS4 back in April 2018, a Free-to-Play game that was very addictive and very generous with its in-game premium currency reward rate. Finally, Xbox One and Switch owners can now get their hands on this family-friendly casual puzzle-arcade title – although, the Switch Edition isn’t free like the others…
I don’t know the reason behind why the Switch version isn’t a Free-to-Play title, maybe it’s something to do with how ‘messy’ the eShop is when it comes to seeing what DLCs and MicroTransactions are out for a game? Or, maybe Nintendo doesn’t allow smaller games to have MicroTransactions as I’ve only seen them in games from big studios (all Mobile-to-Switch games I’ve reviewed have had them stripped out). Either way, although Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars is set at a premium price (£19.99) on the Switch, you actually get a good deal when you compare it to the other console versions – but is this a good thing? Let’s take a closer look…
As the story is the same as the PS4 edition, here’s the Synopsis I wrote in that review:
Starlit Adventures stars an adorable Starlit and its rider. Starlits are kind star-nosed creatures who look a little bit like giant moles. Our Starlit is called Kikki and its rider is known as Bo – two inseparable cute protagonists. Each Starlit has a Sibling Star in the sky and as long as their star is shining brightly, everything is at peace and the world is wonderful.
Bo and Kikki work together as Starkeepers in the lighthouse, where they overlook the stars and ensure that peace remains and that everything is as it should be. However, one day an evil monster known as Nuru came along and stole all of the stars from the sky and hid them throughout various locations around the world. This, in turn, brings sadness to all of the Starlits 🙁
In comes Bo and Kikki as they set out on their epic adventure to recover all of the stars and return them to the sky! You play as Kikki as you don different outfits and make your way through 64 levels, searching for all the stars, stickers and coins.
Starlit Adventures is like a modernised version of DigDug, the classic arcade title in which you must dig down, avoid enemies, and try not to get your head ‘bonked’ by falling rocks. Each level has the same goal, make it to the bottom in one piece, making your way past any obstacles and taking out the enemies you come across in order to gain points and create a safe passage for you and your mount. As you descend these hazardous holes, you need to be on the lookout for three stars, a pack of stickers, and multiple keys, some will be easy to spot whereas others will be embedded within the rocks or placed in areas you can’t seem to reach.
The game has a slight ‘Metroidvania’ approach to it, requiring you to acquire certain suits in order to fully explore the creatively constructed caverns. For example, some levels have the above items placed behind rocks which require you to be a ‘bomber’ in order to blast them to pieces, some are at the end of a long and winding watery passage that requires an underwater suit, and some are high up and out of reach unless you have a suit which enables flight. However, although you’ll need to swap suits regularly if you’re aiming to collect everything, you can always make it to the end of the level regardless of what you’re wearing – you just may have to return later on.
The main game consists of 64 levels which are split between eight worlds, each one ending with a boss battle. These battles were fun to play through as each one requires you to face a large enemy with their own unique fighting style. One boss is like a worm, requiring you to avoid touching it as you look for an opening to shoot its face, another shakes the cavern and causes rocks to fall which you must dodge until you can retaliate and counter-attack. You never know what you’re going to get with the bosses and it can sometimes be a little frustrating as it only takes one hit for you to die, causing you to start the entire battle again.
As mentioned above, there are a number of things you need to be on the lookout for as you smash your way to the bottom of each level. The main thing you’ll be looking for is the three stars. These, like most ‘stars’ in games, are used to unlock the next world. I never felt restricted or like the progression was being halted or artificially slowed down within Starlit Adventures, I always had enough stars to move on after I defeated a boss – unlike other games which annoy me when I can’t progress.
You’ll also come across packs of stickers, each one containing two stickers for your album. In the Switch edition, these are like gold dust as you can only find one per stage and one (or possibly more) when you level up – you can’t ‘buy’ them like you can in the Free-to-Play versions. These are simply used to form a complete album full of artwork for you to peruse at your leisure. There’s not really any other significant use for them here as, although the game has built-in trophies, there are no official ones like on the PS4 and Xbox One.
Finally, the only other thing you’ll be picking up are keys, so you can unlock chests. Well, there’s also the treasure which you find within the chest and scattered around the level, but they go without saying really! Basically, everything you do generates points, points which are converted into experience points at the end of each level, thus taking you to a bonus round and rewarding you with more stickers.
Let’s start with the positives before I talk about what I didn’t like. First up, the elephant in the room – the price. Despite the PS4 and Xbox One versions being FREE, the Switch edition is £19.99 – but I don’t think that’s a ‘bad price’. Basically, all premium currency is gone, all the suits are unlocked from around level four or five, and you even get the much more powerful golden suits included. In comparison, the PS4 has a ‘starter pack’ which contains one golden suit and enough credits to buy the other suits (minus the other two golden ones) and ten packs of stickers for £28.99 – The Switch edition has more content for the lower base price.
Both editions have the additional two modes aside from the main story-based mode. There’s the Infinite Tower (which is an endless tower that randomly changes your suit and alters the obstacles based upon what you’re wearing), and there are a bunch of challenges that unlock as you complete the game, bringing the number of levels up to 208! However, although the Free-to-Play versions make you pay with earnt in-game premium currency to buy certain suits before you can play some of these extra levels, the Switch edition lets you play them as soon as you unlock them due to having all suits as part of the package.
Although the Switch doesn’t officially support trophies or achievements, Starlit Adventures has its own in-game trophies which are also within the other versions. This is a list of 129 goals for you to try and unlock, earning experience points each time you hit one of the criteria. I do like it when Switch games include things like this as it helps limit the gap between platforms and it gives you something to strive for if you’ve finished the game or want to challenge yourself.
This brings me to the biggest difference – no premium currency. The Free-to-Play version had green credits which were quite rare but rewarded in abundance when you levelled up, allowing you to ‘pay’ to continue, purchase new suits or more packs of stickers. With this mechanic gone, the Switch version of Starlit Adventures feels much easier and younger-kid friendly. Instead of spending these elusive credits every time you die so that you can respawn instead of restarting the level from the beginning, you simply respawn at the last checkpoint for free – forever. You now have, essentially, unlimited free continues, which leads me nicely onto…
What didn’t work (personal thoughts)
Whilst on the subject of the difficulty, removing the premium currency was a bad idea, in my opinion. It’s a case of the PS4 version of Injustice, having everything unlocked from the start removed all sense of progression and goals to work towards. I felt satisfied and like I’d accomplished something when I finished the PS4 version of Starlit Adventures this morning, using only the credits I earnt in the game (without paying a penny), and strategically using the suits I’d managed to afford and unlock. However, I didn’t feel anything like that with this version as the unlimited continues and golden suits allowed me to breeze through the levels without any worries.
Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars is much more family-friendly and accessible out of the box – allowing up to four players to grab a controller or Joy-Con and play together and have fun. In that regard, the game is great. However, for those looking for a challenge, I’d have to say that the Free-to-Play version is probably the best one to pick up – I kinda wish both editions were on the store for people to choose between. However, if you have kids and you just want a casual puzzle-platforming game for them to play on with friends or family (or on their own), then this version is technically the best value for money – plus, you have no worries about accidentally buying MicroTransactions.
This edition isn’t a 1:1 copy of the PS4 version I played this morning. One thing I noticed which is missing are the leaderboards. You can no longer see how you rank with people around the world – I never really bothered looking at these but it is a feature that was removed. Also, due to the premium currency being removed, you can no longer buy packs of stickers – so it’ll take much longer to genuinely find them in the game.
Similarly, good luck if you decide to take on the Infinite Tower in the Switch Edition! In the Free-to-Play versions, you can use the premium currencies you can find or buy in order to continue – as you can in the main game. This is free the first time, one coin the next, then two, then four, then six, and finally eight (it never goes above eight coins to respawn). So, if you stock up on coins before you attempt it, you can last hours (I lasted three hours in my run).
But, as there is no premium currency or equivalent in this edition, you have one life in this mode. It takes one hit to kill you and there’s no way to continue or pay to respawn. At most, you’ll probably last about 30 minutes, if you’re lucky with the random rooms you get given based on the suits you pick to use. As such, this mode is ‘infinitely’ more difficult than the alternative edition.
I’m happy to say that the performance of Starlit Adventures was perfect throughout my entire playthrough. I played it mainly in portable mode but I did also play it for a few hours whilst connected to my TV. I didn’t notice any slowdown and the visuals looked nice and clear – especially on the smaller screen. The controls themselves are nice and simple, offering up to two abilities per suit as well as the jump button, but moving takes a little getting used to as it’s grid-based, so you’ll often simply ‘wobble’ if you don’t push the direction far enough.
I really enjoyed the music within the game, I’d forgotten how catchy and uplifting it is. This, along with the cute aesthetic and colourful visuals, makes Starlit Adventures the perfect game to play with your children or if you’re just looking for a casual game to sink your teeth into.
I do have a few issues though. First of all, the game crashed on me three times in around seven hours. I’m not sure why but it never corrupted my saves so it’s nothing serious. The other issue lies with the overly powerful Unicorn suit. The final stage has walls with portals on them, allowing you to go through them and come through the other side (so walk off to the left and appear on the right). However, if you use the Unicorn’s special move (a dash which kills anything it touches), you sometimes get stuck in an endless loop as you’ll dash to the left, come out the right, carry on dashing to the left and through the portal again, then come out the right…
I imagine this is a bug and will hopefully get fixed though. My simple solution was to not use that suit in the final world.
Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars is just as addictive as the Free-to-Play version, only much easier and less stressful. Paying a premium price grants you access to all of the suits, including the three golden ones, and all premium currency has been removed, making the game much more accessible for people of all ages and skill levels as you no longer have to worry about unlocking things and paying to continue. I personally feel the lack of progression in this regard is a bad thing, but it means you’ll rarely get stuck or hit a level progression block.
If you want a challenge, I’d recommend the Free-to-Play version, but if you just want casual fun with no restrictions, this is the version for you.
Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars£19.99
- - 144 levels for you to play solo or with up to four players`
- - Colourful and cute aesthetics
- - All premium currency has been removed and all suits are available from the start
- - Great music
- - Very addictive
- - Removing the premium currency has made the game very easy as there's no fear of dying thanks to having unlimited continues now
- - Leaderboards are removed and you can no longer 'buy' sticker packs
- - No Free-to-Play edition