Let me just throw a few disclosures out into the open before we get going: I didn’t play Close to the Sun in the dark. I’d been having problems with my Xbox One so it took me a bit longer than I had expected for this review to happen, but as luck would have it, I got it working. And trust me, I’m not a wimp or anything, honest! I ended up playing the game throughout the morning as I was finishing up some other writing projects. And you know what? I’m glad I did. This is one of the scariest games I’ve played in a long time.
Close to the Sun review
I’ve played a lot of ‘horror’ games in my time. Games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Superman 64 (oof) were all scary in their own right, but it was usually due to external atmospheric conditions. I would have the lights off, the glow of my TV illuminating one corner of the room as I’m huddled under a blanket. Or maybe sitting on the couch, immersed in darkness with no one else around…I think, anyway.
The premise of the journey you’re about to embark upon is mysterious in nature. You’re a journalist named Rose Archer, sister of Ada Archer. Ada is a researcher on the Helios, Nikola Tesla’s enormous ship that’s proclaimed to be a haven for the greatest scientific minds. You receive a letter from Ada stating that you need to join her on the ship and she leaves you a communication device. Close to the Sun takes place in an alternate reality set in 1897 where Tesla and rival Thomas Edison duke it out for electrical engineering supremacy.
When reading that Close to the Sun was a horror game, I attempted to match my expectations as much as I could. I absolutely love jump scares. I like to feel the rush of adrenaline as something scares the ever-living hell out of me. But this is different. This is just a general sense of foreboding doom that I felt immediately after leaving my cabin. “Damn, this is going to be scary,” I thought. “I’m already scared and I just started.”
Immediately upon leaving the cabin, I was shocked by how dark everything is. As in, there’s light, but it’s dark. There’s nothing wrong with your game or your color settings, the world is just bleak and grim. You may immediately feel uneasy, and for good reason, I suppose. This game’s atmosphere is one that some may attribute to that of BioShock, and I agree. Both are beautiful worlds, both are eerie in stature. As you make your way out of your cabin, you’re instructed to try and dock the vessel you’re on. I’ve never moved so slowly in my life—the controls are fine, but I was genuinely terrified as to what might be around the corner.
Scary sounds and scarier scenery
Throughout the game, you’ll experience quite a few jumpscares. None are cheesy, but all definitely had goosebumps invading my arms. Without revealing too much, there’s one part where the hair stood on the back of my neck and I had to pause the game. Just for a moment, though.
The sound in the game is decently enticing, a constant dull hum ever so slightly pushing you further and further into the depths of the Helios. Atmospheric sounds blend in nicely with the world as you trek through the mystery-filled vessel. The soundscape is quite nice all in all—the voice acting hits all the marks for believability.
The lighting in this game is gorgeous, or lack thereof in some instances. The world is beautiful. At almost any turn in the game, you could take a photo and be blown away by the details. Everything looks pretty in the most doom-filled sense of your imagination. I explore a few rooms and notice a few pieces of paper lying around. Newspaper clippings and seemingly lost passports—signs of lost time from possibly lost people.
There’s a balancing act that games have to achieve to fully immerse the player. Too many unnatural interactions and the immersion is broken—too little and the player is stuck without a clue of what to do. I was pleasantly surprised by how intuitive everything was. I usually play on PCs due to superior controls, but the Xbox controls feel perfect. It’s easy enough to move around, there’s no gross HUD blocking the game’s beauty, and I’m sure the feel of the game is the same on both the Playstation 4 and Switch.
The gameplay is challenging enough to keep things interesting but easy enough that the puzzles or chases don’t take away from the experience. In some horror games, the amount of reading that players must do will make you feel like you’re missing out on some bits of the lore if you choose not to view them all. If I wanted to spend that much time reading, I’d buy a book. Fortunately, Close to the Sun makes these reading materials throughout the same easy. Just pick up a document, glance it over, and move on. You’ll get just the right amount of background story filler without feeling like you’ve read a small novel.
Unless it’s a game where the story doesn’t matter too much, I’ll always do my best not to reveal much about a game’s plot and possible twists. Spoilers suck for everyone and I don’t want to be the fuel added to that God-awful fire. All in all, I really enjoyed my time in this world. The atmosphere is fantastic, the tension is distributed at a fantastic pace, and it truly scared me. I called my wife to tell her as much. She’s the biggest scaredy-cat I know, and even she said, “Wow, this game must’ve really done something to you, huh?”
My only gripe about this game, really, is its length. Even taking my time, I still managed to clear the game in only a few short but satisfying hours. Now, with that being said, I’m almost 100% sure I missed a lot of the collectibles and secrets that the game has to offer. Nevertheless, I’d say this is a great choice if you’re seeking some artistic horror to satiate your appetite now that Halloween has passed. But don’t be like me—play this game in the dark.
Close to the Sun is available now on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and the Switch.
High Ping Gaming received a copy of this game for review. No other monetary compensation was exchanged and all opinions are solely that of the author.