Star Seeker in: The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff review
While most single-scene adventure games are of the escape room variety, Benedict Ide’s Star Seeker in: The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff is a tightly contained point-and-click mystery set in a world where knowing your away around the mystic and the arcane is a one-way ticket to jail. With an amusing script and tons of interesting details to more than compensate for the somewhat lackluster gameplay, this brief investigation in the aftermath of a magic incident at 2 a.m. ends up being quite the enjoyable experience.
The story is pretty straightforward, but with a fantastical twist. What begins as a 911 call for a shooting and fire that happen simultaneously in a tiny apartment soon turns out to be based in mysticism as one of the victims is a sorcerer and a bunch of magical artifacts are found at the crime scene. The detective in charge of the investigation, Leo Fleini, calls in a special consultant to help him with the case: Star Seeker, the game’s protagonist and a wizard on parole.
Alongside them is a forensic investigator named Opal Whydat, who also happens to be the ex of Leo’s wife. The chemistry between the three of them is great, and it’s hard not to smile when watching each of them deal with the silliness and selfish behaviour of the other two. It’s a shame that Opal doesn’t offer much to the investigation aside from being an NPC you can talk to from time to time, but she still serves an important purpose in the story. While you’ll only speak to Leo about the details of the case, talking to Opal reveals more about the world in which these characters live. For example, she’ll shine light on the whole story with Leo’s wife and explain why the police are no longer allowed to touch any elements in a crime scene that are not directly linked to the case.
The room where the whole game takes place might be small, but it’s packed to the brim with all kinds of weird details: two dead bodies, a hologram, a live goat and a bunch of burned stuff, just to name a handful. Most of the relevant hotspots have already been helpfully labeled by the detective, leaving the task of figuring out what happened here to Star, whose parole conditions involve having to work as a magical consultant. Things like different types of wizards, ritual ingredients and various levels of spells are well-integrated into the story, allowing more opportunity for wacky situations but without ruining the logical structure of the mystery.
The gameplay mechanics are fairly basic, with one notable exception. You move Star with the directional arrow keys and interact with your surroundings using the spacebar. The mystery is solved by gathering evidence around the room and using it to answer Leo’s questions about the case in order to build a solid theory about what happened. The number of clues you are able to present can become surprisingly large, and you are unable to read their descriptions while talking to Leo.
This is where magic factors back in. To review and sort evidence, Star has a spell called “Lightningbolt Mind.” By using the A or D keys, Star can go in and out of a purely subconscious mental place without other people noticing. There, each piece of the puzzle is stored as a memory with proper descriptions. It’s here that Star can choose which memories will appear as options to answer Leo’s questions by selecting or deselecting them at any time. Lightningbolt Mind also allows you to check a log in which Star can review up to the last twenty lines of dialogue spoken during conversations.
While these features can be helpful, it is possible to complete the game without using them. In fact, the most help Lightningbolt Mind offers is that you can use it as a checklist, since you are given the same number of empty memory spaces as the total of clues that can be found through the game. Making wrong deductions doesn’t have any negative repercussions in the story, and with most interactions generating unique lines, it’s actually quite fun to check out what kind of silly dialogue comes out when you present the wrong piece of evidence. There’s even an option to make random guesses to Leo’s questions that could yield a clue pointing you in the right direction, making the investigation less about logical deduction and more about thorough exploration.
Fortunately, having extra things to examine is always welcome when the script is so good. It works as a solid murder mystery in its own right, though it’s mainly a comedy about three silly characters with very different personalities, backgrounds and fields of expertise that constantly clash with each other during the course of the investigation. This leads to lots of funny moments, especially between Star, a lovable rascal, and Leo, a bureaucrat who cares more about proper procedures than justice. And while Opal, a nervous woman with a deep grudge against Leo, doesn’t contribute much to the case, her role in the story ends up being as important as the main duo’s.
Each character – even the goat who happens to be in the same apartment you are investigating – has a unique set of animated pixel sprites and portraits with colorful designs. Star’s gender-ambiguous looks are intentional, since the player can change pronouns at any time from the option menu. There are the standard sets for male/female/non-binary, but you can even write your own.
There are lots of other fun details in the game’s design, like the aforementioned log in the Lightningbolt Mind being an actual tree trunk that takes the shape of the characters’ faces when replaying their dialogues, and a main menu where every option is written as some sort of spell (with more traditional small clarifications in parentheses). Each person has their own unique set of trilling sounds to go along with the subtitles – except for the goat, who just … makes actual goat noises for some reason.
Speaking of audio, a score with ten different synth tracks, one of which is a remix, is something I did not expect for such a short game, but it is more than welcome. It’s jazzy, mostly upbeat, and goes well with both the art style and the story. Every time you get the right answer to one of Leo’s questions, a tune called “Magic Square” starts playing and makes you want to get up out of your chair and do a silly victory dance.
This bite-sized adventure game doesn’t take more than two hours to complete, but it is a fun experience from start to finish. The investigation mechanics are closer to narrative devices than actual gameplay, but the witty dialogues, well-developed mystery, and charming characters are more than enough to keep you hooked while you try to solve The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff and find out how a goat ended up in a magical crime scene.
Those who enjoy a solid murder mystery with well-written humour and charming characters will find all that packed into a single room in Star Seeker, a short but sweet LGBTQ+ friendly pixel art adventure.
What our readers think of Star Seeker in: The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff
Want to share your own thoughts about this game? Share your personal score, or better yet, leave your own review!