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In Stars and Time Review: A Time-Loop Adventure That Defies Expectations

In Stars and Time is a journey worth taking that leaves a lasting impression, making it a standout title in the indie RPG genre.
Innovative time-loop mechanic integrated into gameplay and storytelling
Diverse cast of characters and a combat system that is simple yet strategically deep
Simple yet strategically deep. Quality-of-life features to avoid tedium and maintain game flow
The game's length and repetitive nature might lead to periods of tedium, particularly in later stages
Monochromatic art style, though visually charming, may not appeal to all players
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A Steam code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. In Stars and Time is available now for PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

As someone who typically steers clear of time-loop-centric games, I approached In Stars and Time with a mix of curiosity and skepticism. However, to my pleasant surprise, this indie gem not only captivated my attention but also kept it firmly gripped from start to finish. It’s not just another game that uses time loops as a gimmick; it’s a well-crafted journey that weaves this mechanic into its very soul, making it a near-perfect outing for developer insertdisc5.

Set in the contemporary fantasy town of Dormont, In Stars and Time thrusts you into the boots of Siffrin (or Frin, for short), a one-eyed roguish hero with a knack for puns and a mysterious past. You’re at the end of a grand journey, alongside a motley crew of characters — each bringing their unique flair to the narrative. From Bonnie, the mischievous non-binary youngster, to Isabeau, the epitome of a gentle giant, the game’s cast is as diverse as it is engaging.

The loop: More than just déjà vu

The time-loop mechanic in In Stars and Time is more than just a repetitive cycle. It’s the heartbeat of the game, influencing both gameplay and storytelling in profound ways. Every death of Siffrin resets the loop, but with a twist — he retains his memories, allowing for new strategies and approaches in each iteration. This mechanic cleverly intertwines with the narrative, shedding light on the characters’ growth and the unraveling mystery of the frozen-in-time continent.

The combat system in In Stars and Time is refreshingly simple yet strategically deep. Based on the classic Rock-Paper-Scissors format, it challenges you to read your enemies and respond accordingly. The addition of the All Out Attack system adds an extra layer of strategy, allowing for massive area-of-effect attacks that can turn the tide of battle.

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The writing in In Stars and Time is where the game truly stands out. It’s sharp, witty, and handles complex themes like mental health and self-worth with the finesse of a seasoned novelist. The game as a whole is reminiscent of classics like Earthbound and Undertale — which is great company to be in — filled with quirky and hilarious moments that balance the game’s heavier themes.

Making time loops bearable

Despite its monochromatic art style, In Stars and Time bursts with visual charm. The character designs are striking, each conveying a distinct personality. The pixel art is masterfully crafted, turning what could have been simplistic visuals into a painterly experience. Accompanying these visuals is a chip-tune soundtrack that’s catchy and enhances the game’s overall atmosphere.

One of the game’s most commendable features is its quality-of-life offerings. Recognizing the potential tedium of time loops, insertdisc5 included options to fast-forward through already heard conversations and quick ways to reset the loop. These features respect the player’s time and keep the game flowing smoothly, which is crucial in a game that relies on repetition.

In Stars and Time’s length can be a double-edged sword — while it allows for detailed storytelling and character development, it can also lead to periods of repetitiveness, especially in later stages. The challenge of navigating the same environments and solving puzzles can sometimes feel more like a chore than an adventure. I finished my playthrough in just over 11 hours, but I could see how you might be able to double that number depending on your playstyle.

From skeptic to believer

This game shines in its representation, featuring a diverse cast that includes non-binary and bisexual characters. The themes of friendship, memory, and the passage of time are woven into the narrative, evolving naturally from companionship to the concept of a “found family” — something that is especially prevalent in today’s world. This transition is handled with subtlety and grace, making it one of the game’s most heartwarming aspects.

In Stars and Time has done the improbable — it turned a time-loop skeptic into a believer. The game’s emotional depth, engaging gameplay, and masterful storytelling kept me enthralled from beginning to end. It’s a testament to how a well-executed concept, coupled with compelling writing and character development, can transcend genre preferences.

In Stars and Time is more than just an indie RPG; it’s a narrative masterpiece that uses its time-loop mechanic to tell a story that’s both engaging and emotionally resonant. While it may have its moments of tedium, the overall experience is one of depth and enjoyment. Whether you’re a fan of time-loop games or not, In Stars and Time is a journey worth taking. It’s a game that not only entertains but also leaves a lasting impression, making it a standout title in the indie RPG genre.

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