Review: Hoshi Saga Ringo

Genre(s): Point and Click/Puzzle/Experimental
Link: Developer’s page
Difficulty: Low
Warnings: None.
Control Scheme: Mouse (point, click, and drag)
Shiny Happy Stars To Put A Smile On Your Face: 25
How magnificent stars are that they should capture our imaginations so. For the thousands of years we have walked this planet, those bright pinpricks of light in the night sky have held us rapt, acting as avatars for ancestors and deities in our folklore, guiding seafarers to home ports, and serving as the backdrop for daring adventures in galaxies far from our own. That these distant suns are in fact stranger and arguably more wondrous than our most fanciful myths is only part of the gravitational pull they hold on our dreams and fancies.
Hoshi Saga Ringo is the latest and most colorful edition to Ishii-san’s beautiful love poem to the stars. For those of you that have never played one of the Nekogames developer’s Hoshi Saga installments before, these games are collections of diverse and varyingly challenging mouse based puzzles. In each one, your goal is to uncover the five pointed star by any means necessary.
It is the goal of uncovering said star that stands as pretty much the only unifying aspect from one mini-puzzle to the next. Beyond that, each puzzle you meet is it’s own entity complete with different visual styles, rules, and of course solutions. While this might not be the best Hoshi Saga to date, it’s definitely a great place to start if you are just getting indoctrinated to the series.
With the advent of Ringo, the Hoshi Saga series now boasts 100 unique puzzles which is an amazing feat and speaks volumes about Ishi’s impressive creativity and ability to innovate. To create 100 individual puzzles is one thing, but to make each one as fun and engaging as the last is something else that really makes this series stand out in the world of alternative gaming.
Part of the success of the Hoshi Saga series is the sheer cleverness of the puzzles, how the mechanics and solution come together in a technical but organic way. In a way, it’s like the admiration you might feel for a well built machine in much the same way guitar players might covet a high end Les Paul or car enthusiasts will gaze in awe under the hood of a 1965 Shelby. It is, perhaps, the appeal that the Hoshi Saga has towards puzzle enthusiasts, therefore.
And then there’s the magic that Ishi is able to conjure in each puzzle, the way the solution builds in an instant with the chime and the revelation of the star to create that single moment. Once the puzzle is solved, there is a completely different level of appreciation that comes into play, one that is not unlike watching the finale of a fireworks display. Time and time again the Hoshi Saga games offer this special, nearly intangible magic.
In Ringo, the puzzles stand out in an all new way as well. In the past, the series has been rendered in black and white. This time Hoshi Saga explodes in in a starburst of color, adding to that sense of discover and wonderment that is a part of the Hoshi Saga experience.
Unfortunately, the puzzles offered in this outing are notably easier than they have been in the first three games. With only maybe one puzzle providing even a little bit of a challenge, those the levels here are clever, they are over far too quickly, meaning the game as a whole is cut unfortunately short leaving you wishing for more. On one hand, this isn’t all bad, and the game’s relative level of ease makes it more accessible to newcomers. Still, veterans may walk away from this episode feeling perhaps a little jilted, or unsatisfied.
Aside from the drop in difficulty, though, Ringo does a fine job in upholding the good name of the Hoshi Saga series. While not exactly challenging, the puzzles are still quite clever, and as always, the game remains itself a work of art that one would be sorry to miss.

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