In Stars and Time’s seemingly about a group of adventurers on their final quest to defeat an evil king on top of his tower. But really it’s about the protagonist Siffrin, who after quickly dying on their way to the top realizes they can somehow loop back to the previous day with their memories and experience intact

Initially this works to their benefit, being able to keep the party from failing by returning each loop with the knowledge needed to advance. And eventually they actually succeed and defeat the king, seemingly saving everyone in the process and completing their goal. But when it seems like the game’s about to end here, the loop still happens inexplicably and brings Siffrin back to the start anyway. With no knowledge on how to break it or any idea why it’s even happening, they’re now forced to repeat the same thing over and over again

What stood out most about this game to me was how committed it was to being… repetitive. Siffrin (and by extension the player) will redo this loop, fight the same enemies, run through the same floors, mostly read the same dialogue, backtracking to the same rooms, searching for anything different to try and stop it, for hours on end. There are some things that make the loops less annoying, like being able to jump to different floors after dying or retaining memories for your party, but that’s basically the gist of it. Though as tedious as that obviously sounds, something about that structure still kept me glued to it all the way to the end

I guess it was the way it’s used narratively and how it affects the characters. Siffrin was compelling to play as and you’ll watch as their sanity gradually unravels with each loop from the constant monotony of it all. I liked that you’re basically sharing their struggle the longer you keep playing in a meta sort of way, they’ll get frustrated with it and so will you. The others, Mirabelle, Isabeau, Odile, and Bonnie, are all good as well. While you do spend much time reading their same dialogue over and over (mercifully can zone out and skip it at least), was sweet to see how much they bond with each other throughout and make up the game’s more emotional core

The turn based combat was… alright. Bit too simple, but I liked that it was based on Rock Paper Scissors with the enemy designs actually having one of the signs to show which they were weak to. But really I’d definitely say the appeal for this is in the story than the gameplay, past a certain point you’ll wish you can just ignore or skip past most fights

I do think this is a well made game, but also one that’s (albeit intentionally) frustrating to play. It is pretty long for what it is at about 20 hours for me, and you have to meet it halfway to click with the story it’s trying to tell. But I think it worked for me by the end and appreciate what it went for, even if I doubt it’ll be for everyone

Reviewed on Nov 25, 2023