Hudson's My Starry Night (or My Planetarium in North America) is very much the celestial cousin to their earlier WiiWare effort My Aquarium. It’s surprisingly informative, moderately entertaining and at a low enough price that it might entice you to take a trip through the heavens.
The game contains three modes: Observation, Celestial Guidebook and Planetarium Tour, with the first two interweaving neatly. Observation essentially presents you with a view of the stars as seen from Earth, and you can zoom in and out and pan around, taking it all in. You’re able to toggle lines joining the stars in constellations, their names and overlaid pictures of what they represent, and clicking on any name, star or constellation will bring up some brief information showing you its right ascension and declination.
There’s a surprising number of ways you can customise your view of the heavens. You can alter the magnitude required before a star will show up, letting you ramp up or dial down the number of visible stars, view the sky from a different city in the world – which accurately alters the sky above you – and change the time of day, atmospheric conditions and more. You can add up to 1,000 shooting stars every hour, accelerate the passage of time and generally experience a bit more depth than you’d probably expect.
Anything you spot in Observation mode is linked to the Celestial Guidebook, which provides more information about objects in the night sky. Here you can discover which stars make up each constellation and the mythology behind their namesake, useful if you don’t know your Ophiuchus from your Orpheus. Each name in the Celestial Guidebook is a link to that object’s page, making it surprisingly addictive to flick through the pages seeing how everything connects, but unfortunately it’s not so easy returning to the main menu, leaving you to skip backwards through the pages you’ve just seen if you want to look up something new.
The guidebook itself is available separately, letting you pick out any object without having to find it in the sky first, and with 365 different celestial objects to find you’ll be glad you can skip to the ones you’re interested in. There’s also a very helpful terminology guide to teach you the difference between a cluster and a nebula.
The last gameplay mode is the automated Planetarium Tour, which takes you through 11 different tours ranging from the signs of the Zodiac to the history of constellations. Although they're not all fully voiced, most featuring subtitles, they’re all sufficiently interesting to be worth clicking on and sitting through, and help to bring the first two modes together.
There’s a reasonable range of classical tunes to accompany your voyage through the stars, although we would have liked the ability to play files from an SD card. The presentation isn’t bad either, with clear menus and a good range of tweakable options to fiddle around with.
Like My Aquarium before it, My Starry Night isn’t for everyone. There’s precious little to do other than click on and read about stars, but the heavens are naturally intriguing and you could find yourself sucked in rather more than you expected. It’s not going to set the world alight but if you have even a passing interest in exploring the stars, and have always been frustrated by light pollution and cheap telescopes, this is well worth a shot.