StarGazing is as relaxing as pulling out a chair, looking up at the night sky, and spending the evening just counting the stars and trying to figure out the constellations. And that’s okay because that’s what the game is trying to be: a no-stress, star-swiping puzzle game where solving the patterns of the constellations you’re matching is both fluid and rewarding.
Star of the show
The premise in StarGazing is that you have stumbled upon a “StarBook” from your aunt Nicola, which contains relics related to each one of the 51 constellations in the game. Movie and concert tickets, scraps of paper, and other retro elements filled this scrapbook to the brim with nostalgia and hints on how to solve each puzzle.
StarGazing uses these references to build upon the art and design of each one, which directly correlates to the actual constellations up in the sky. After finishing a puzzle, the game provides more information about that star formation with a description, the year it was discovered and who it was discovered by, and where on Earth you can see it. It’s a simple revelation, but it’s informative and adds to the whole experience as if it was the notes your aunt was writing about each one.
Connect the dots
Gameplay involves studying the art that designates each level, which shows the animal or symbol that represents the constellation, with an overlay of the stars that make it and then using that information to solve the puzzle. When you’re in the puzzle, you are only given an array of stars, and it’s up to you to connect the dots with lines that essentially draw out the shapes that represent what you saw on the artwork. It can be overly simple but tricky at times when the paths become more complex.
The game pits you against your memory, and while you can go back at any time to revisit the clue, it’s a challenge to see if you can do it right the first time. A timer and star amount (best out of three) gives you goals to strive for but doesn’t really add much complexity when most puzzles are solved in seconds.
The music in the game is subtle and sounds like something you might hear in a spa, but really adds to the zen-like experience. Another one of my favourite parts is how you’re rewarded with fireworks after solving each puzzle, which adds a nice visual flair. The graphics are rough but stylized in the notebook, but the area that the puzzles take place in is gorgeous and very calming.
There are achievements to work towards that unlock stickers and cards that you can view and a leaderboard where you can compete against others for the quickest solved time, but I wouldn’t really say that adds much to the game unless you’re a completionist, which is totally respectable.
The only complaint I have about the game is the way that ads are incorporated. I understand that free games rely on them to profit from players, but they are seen often, and really take the immersion out of the experience each and every time. If you score two stars on a level and want to retry, you’re going to see an advertisement. They also show up periodically as you play through the levels.
While I would normally find the ads in this game light compared to most mobile titles, the fact that it takes away from a zen-like aura of relaxation really distracts from how the game feels in the end. I wince when I know one is coming, and that’s never a good sign.
Thankfully and also, unfortunately, you can pay to remove the ads with an in-app purchase. It’s a bit on the expensive end of what I would normally be willing to pay, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had considered purchasing it multiple times. A game this freeing deserves to be played at its highest potential, and it almost seems criminal to restrict it otherwise.