‘Chasing the Stars’ is a Boys Love Visual Novel, released late January this year from indie developers Ertal Games. The game is futuristic steam punk romance, where you play as 22 year old Tirs. Tirs has always dreamed of leaving Earth and exploring the university, and his chance comes in the form of a cloud with a silver lining. After breaking up with his boyfriend, Tirs joins a research team working on making a new found planet human-ready. Lead by the famous and incredibly handsome Marc Rossell, Tirs must make decisions that influence not only his life, but others on Earth and the planet Alaya.
Price: $10 USD
Routes: 3 routes
Recommended Route Order: Marc –> Biel –> Pol
Play time: 6-8 hours
Available on: Steam & Itch.io, for Windows, Mac & Linux
The game is a visual novel, but besides the normal dialogue/ action choices did feature some other fun mechanics. Most notably, some scenes will prompt users to explore the room, clicking on objects to help solve small puzzles. Speaking of these puzzles, I loved how failing one could lead to an automatic bad ending. It made the stakes of the game seem a bit more realistic. Another mechanic I think a lot of players will enjoy are the sexy time options. First of all, when the game starts players can choose to turn sexy time off, on or choose to be prompted just before it happens. I will say that a majority of the games CGs are R18, so if you do turn it off you may miss out on quite a few pictures. On top of being able to select whether you want to see sexy times, you can also choose what position Tirs will be! That was particularly fun ☺️
It terms of the story itself, I actually really enjoyed it. I found Tirs to be a great protagonist. The interwoven story of loosing his first love / heartbreak within a greater plot of morals and ambition was masterfully done. The game does not branch off into different routes until right at the end when you unlock each character’s ending. This meant that there was a pretty long common route, and subsequent replays sometimes were just me forwarding through scenes I’d already read.
My first route was with the professor, Marc. His route was probably my favourite, not because I actually liked him, but because I enjoyed how his route felt like a ‘bad’ ending. Even his good ending, I felt had the message of ‘was it worth all the sacrifice’? However, after finishing his route I noticed in the guide that you have to agree to sleep with Marc otherwise you can get a bad ending later on. That did end up making me feel a bit uneasy about the relationship. Even though Biel was the character I was the most intrigued by, I didn’t really get much of a feel of him in the first half of the game. But boy did he surprise me in the second half, I really enjoyed his ending. But of course, the star romance award does go to Pol. I’m so glad I did his route last otherwise I would have felt so bad in every other route. Even going back and doing his normal ending, I wanted to slap Tirs and be like “OPEN YOUR EYES, HE’S PERFECT!”
Int terms of art, I generally really liked all the character designs and I though the CGs were gorgeous. I did find there was a pretty clear style different between the CGs and the sprites, I’m not very good at describing art, but the sprites seemed more like sketches whereas the CGs had more depth and sharper colours. I didn’t mind the difference at all, as when the CGs did come on screen it was refreshing.
A very small art related critique is the character sprite for Lila. Lila (above middle) is one of Tirs’ best friends and her sprite seemed so underdeveloped compared to every other sprite in the game. All the other female characters had great shading and designs, and Lila just looked very plain and overly cartoonish. Lila features quite heavily throughout the game as well, so it wasn’t something I could just ignore!
One issue I did experience, is that when I first tried to play the game on my Mac through Steam, it did not work. I kept getting an error message saying ‘missing executable’. I talked to Ertal games about this and we tried a few different solutions and nothing would work. They did say that no one else has had this issue, and I was able to play it later on my dad’s Windows computer later. But, I did want to bring this issue up in the spirit of full disclosure.
I had a lot of fun playing through ‘Chasing the Stars’. I found Tirs to be a great BL protagonist, ambitious yet loveable. The love interests were a bit of a mixed bag, and I know not all players will enjoy certain ones (particularly Marc), but I know just about everyone will adore Pol. I do wish that the game branched a little bit earlier as the common story was quite long and would have allowed for the development of some characters like Biel, who I felt a little left out at the beginning. The art style was unique and interesting, the screenshot of Biel (above) is probably my favourite image in the game. Overall, a unique story, with fun steampunk elements – I’m looking forward to what other interesting stories Ertal Games will develop in future.
Thank you to Ertal Games for providing me with a review copy of ‘Chasing the Stars’.