Sometimes, a mobile game cannot just be the simple few minute occasional peek that you just use to pass off a few blah moments in the workday or while on the bus. Sometimes, the game can be one that encapsulates your attention and you can find yourself putting many hours of energy into it.
I found this happened when I downloaded the survial game Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition, developed by Canadian indie company Klei Entertainment, for the iOS. Though this game has been out on the market for mobile and PC for a while, and is slowly expanding through the console platforms, it popped up as a “must have” on the store and so I thought I would give it a try. And it is definitely a game worth exploring (no matter what platform you try it on).
The game environment feels like Minecraft meets spooky graveyard/satirical horror movie. The world looks much like our own with trees and bugs, but you will also stumble across upright walking pigs and spiders the size of elephants. That isn’t too surprising these days….every game has GIANT spiders. Ideally it’s an open sandbox world that provides a variety of ways for the player to essentially die. But it’s not in the gruesome permanent death type, it’s more comical and spontaneous. Sort of causes excitement to get back into the game and see what happens next time. Every time you restart, you come equipped with the new knowledge that you just gained, so the game will never be the same. It’s all about trial and error.
As knowledge grows, so does your chance of survival.
There are no instructions or main rules in the game…essentially…it’s to survive as long as possible.
On the interface screen, there are buttons that indicate different categories of items that you can construct from raw materials and goods that you find as you adventure into the open world. Things like sticks and flint can be used to construct an axe or sword and allow you to obtain logs and gold.
While adventuring is a key part of the game, at some point it is logical to settle down and make a permanent camp. Here you
can build shelter, raise farms for crops and livestock. Like a real person, you need food for survival and energy.
Hunger and health aren’t the only things that you need to keep focus on maintaining. Obviously, losing health means you die and there are a lot of things in the environment that want to kill you.
Sanity plays a big part in the game. As sanity decrease, strange things will begin to happen, including hallucinations. If you allow your sanity to drop too low, these hallucinations will become real and attack you…and you will die. You lose sanity the most when you have been frightened, hurt or mostly when it’s dark out. Think about being scared of the dark, it would drive you a bit crazy. There are items that can be crafted to help raise sanity, so it’s very critical to keep your eye on this to ensure your longevity. If I can give one hint, never let your fire die out at night. Never.
Every game/run played (regardless of how long or short) will earn you experience points which will unlock new playable characters with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Plus you can unlock environment customizations that can alter anything in the world from rocks to butterflies to daylight longevity. This can make the game easier or infinitely more difficult. It’s all up to your gaming desires and style.
That in a whole is the game.
Survive as long as you can and learn as much as possible so you can survive a bit longer on your next run. The joys of the game is that there are no victory conditions or goals, just stay alive. The game allows for new experiences every time you play, and exploring the world will allow you to see things you have never seen before. Plus the game keeps you on your toes with the constant sense of dreed, the feeling in the pit of your stomach —- “Time is running out for today, I need to make a fire or die”.
If you are a gamer who needs purpose, there is Adventure Mode which will drop you into a new world with the goal of escaping. It gives the player a bit of narrative and a sense of achievement if you are successful.
Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition includes both the original Don’t Starve and the Reign of Giants Expansion. The expansion gives access to the original nine characters and two new additions. The Reign of Giants expansion adds new seasonal challenges including the torrential rain falls of spring and the blistering heat of summer. You’ll also encounter new creatures and collectables that will either help you survive or kill you. Oh, and there are GIANTS!!!
Don’t Starve is not for everyone. The difficulty curve that occurs the longer the game progresses in a run, couple with permadeath might turn a lot of people off. Having to replay the first few days in the game over and over again each time you play can be boring and exhausting, but I find that each restart is an opportunity to try something different and have a new experience. But that said, I know that there are those who would find it too repetitive.
I personally love this game as each run is a challenge and there is always a skill to try and figure out a better way to survive. It can be completely frustrating to finally get farms built and have everything going smoothly to just be bombarded by a pack of roving hounds and the game ends, but it’s the pure excitement to the challenge of this game. I recommend getting this game and trying it out. You may be surprised how addicting it can be.