In Stars and Time review - a wizard and other characters look ahead

In Stars and Time review – take me away I don’t mind

Ever since the release of Undertale and everyone’s rediscovery of how cozy and friendly games like Earthbound felt, there has been a clear audience for the “cozy rpg”. While games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield dominate the market, players also want something different. One RPG that they can cuddle with, so to speak, and that is closer to their sensibilities. In Time and Stars promises to be exactly that, a take on that Undertale-vibe but with a time rewinding twist. Is it worth your not-rewindable time?

The story in Stars and Time begins when it is already too late. The Kingdom of Vaugared has been frozen in time by the King, and only one Housemaiden, Mirabelle, can bring about salvation for all the inhabitants, lets they remain frozen in time forever. She is back with other four party members, Siffrin, Isabeau, Odile and Bonnie. They will have to go against the King, in a mad dash to save everyone.

Interestingly, you do not take control of Mirabelle, but instead of Siffrin, the rogue. It is a refreshing change of pace that you are not the hero or the chosen one. We meet Siffrin waking up from a nap, as they will walk around town, getting friendly with the locals (or not) and finding out a bit about the other party members. Pretty soon, it is off to the King’s Castle, only to die at the first trap in the very first corridor.

But fret not, since that’s when the first loop takes place, we’ll be back with Siffrin waking up from a nap but with all memories of what just happened intact. It is just a matter of redoing everything, then being back to the trap and disarming it, this time. That’s how the time loop mechanics come into place, sitting snugly just beside the classic RPG mechanics. Wait, did I say classic? Well not really, more like “did I play too much Alex Kidd in Miracle World?”, perhaps.

Indeed, rock-paper-scissors are the dominant force in the way we go against enemies. Each party member (except for Bonnie, they are just there to help) represent a different sign in rock-paper-scissors, and they will be weak or strong towards other signs accordingly. But how do you tell which signs will an enemy represent? You’ll have to look telling signs in their clothes or shape, which is a nice touch. But the combat does seem to get in the way a bit too much, especially because it is not really designed to be the main dish.

So, since looping is a big part of the game, we get a creature that will explain everything, appropriately called Loop. Each time we are missing an object, or we learn something essential to progress, we need to go back in time (which translates to be killed) and choose the right fork ahead. There is, logically, a fair bit of trial and error involved, which is fine, but with it also comes a lot of backtracking and having to skip conversations you have seen already tens of times. In order to skip ahead at other “save points”, it is also necessary to use a currency that will have to be gained by fighting and doing other tasks.

Speaking of conversations, the writing in In Time and Stars might be a bit of an acquired taste. It heavily relies on all characters being very quirky and trying hard to be likeable, which does tend to become grating after a while. This is merely a personal problem, but I’d rather have my characters show how they really are, rather than having to tell me in each single conversations. Examining things is particularly tedious as with most objects comes a deluge of text, which might be funny at first, but gets rather irritating after a while. Perhaps a bit more balance would have better served the gameplay. But there is a strong LGBTQ+ representation in the party, so that’s definitely a big plus in our books.

The black and white aesthetic is particularly unique and nice to look at, especially considering the whole game was made in RPG Maker. The characters’ artwork is appropriately “wonky” which does match their personalities as well. Still, with everything being always in black and white, coupled with a kind of lo-fi aesthetic, it might be difficult for some people to recognize important items and telling signs in enemies.

Overall, In Stars and Time gets a lot of things right, but fumbles in some other departments. With a unique loop mechanic, comes a lot of backtracking and much less freedom than one might think at the beginning. With a unique lo-fi black and white aesthetic, comes too much writing in places where it is really not necessary. It is a delicate balance that does work more times than it doesn’t and will probably easily find their right target audience, even in the crowded “quirky RPG” market.

Our In Stars and Time review was made possible with a key provided by Player Two PR. In Stars and Time is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4/5.

In Stars and Time: A unique RPG with an intriguing time looping mechanic and strong LGBTQ+ representation, which loses some steam for its long-winded conversations and too much backtracking. Damiano Gerli

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Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun. Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple. Damiano is a gaming industry professional and historian, loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs. Basically, Damiano is been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on X at @damgentemp.