Starseed Pilgrim’s one of those experiential Indie games that must be played to be understood. It’s not that the appeal is immediately apparent once it’s played. Several hours in and maybe it’s still as obtuse, maybe even more so. Then we overcome our obstacle and find that it’s truly a game about growing but also being reduced.
It all takes place in a stark minimalist world that’s all abstraction. There’s no explanation for what to do. That’s up to us and it’s the core sentiment for why we’re playing a videogame, after-all, so that it will be our own experience.
We are given seeds and can build a sonic garden that doubles as a a connective platform, reaching from the roots and forming around the terrain in delicate patterns, marked with musical tones as they reach each stage of growth. It’s all very lovely sounding. Each seed has its own properties which must be learned and then we have to figure out what to do with that information. Shortly the sense for which seed needs to be planted where begins to set in. It’s our discovery. The developer has respect enough for the audience to allow them to find the way.
The only signposting comes from Haiku which are perfectly emblematic of Starseed Pilgrim’s parts. The Haiku provides the same base appeal for the reader. It’s not the author telling a finished story but instead providing a sensory representation of story that’s experiential and trusts the reader to piece together its inverted parts. Starseed Pilgrim’s much the same.
There are only a few mechanics informing play. Planting, jumping, and breaking up plants. The different types of plants and how they place in the environment, however, add a mechanical depth and strategy for how to handle the problem of reaching new places. It will be entirely limiting for us if we’re after instant gratification but with a patient play through, there’s a fresh and highly rewarding experience to be had.
Starseed Pilgrim will be highly divisive. It can be as good as we have the patience to allow. By necessity there’s a lot of talking around what Starseed Pilgrim actually does but it’s either all the better for it or confoundingly empty and plain, depending on how we approach it. If that concept inspires anything, we’d recommend downloading this game soon. It’s good and esoteric in an entirely worthwhile way.