Mysterious Stars: The Singer Review
Posted by Philip J Reed
Connect the dots, dot to dot, join the dots...whatever you called it growing up, the odds are pretty good you didn't think the game would be improved by a storyline.
That's unfortunate, because that's the one thing Mysterious Stars: The Singer has to differentiate itself from an inexpensive book of similar puzzles.
Well, no, that's not entirely true. It also has the fact that it's really, really bad.
Mysterious Stars: The Singer tells the story of a young couple in the midst of financial hardship. They lament their situation loudly enough that they are overheard by the "God of the Stars," who needs your help returning them to fiscal security. How? By doing some dot-to-dots. Of course.
There's not much to say about the game, because it isn't much of one. It's probably not even fair to refer to these exercises as "puzzles," as the only thing you ever need to figure out is what number comes after the one you just found. If, for instance, you can only count to 23, then we're sure this release will provide hours upon hours of brain-bending action. If, however, you know how to count upwards in single increments of whole numbers, there's really nothing to solve.
This is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, it's not engaging in the slightest. There's nothing to keep you interested, unless you find yourself wrapped up in the storyline, which sees the main character pursuing his dream of being a folk singer rather than, you know, applying for a job somewhere. As far as the actual gameplay goes, you are doing literally nothing but drawing lines from one point to another, over and over again.
Secondly, and certainly most importantly, a game with such a simple objective absolutely has to handle that objective well. Mysterious Stars: The Singer bungles it in ways we never thought possible.
The most absurd of the game's many problems is the fact that it lags.
Yes, you read that correctly. A connect the dots game suffers from lag.
That, to be blunt, is inexcusable. The DS and 3DS have both seen titles that integrate touch screen input with varying degrees of success, but even among the worst of them we wouldn't expect the drawing of a single line to cause a game to sputter and chug like a failing moonshine still.
The dot connection, as you might expect, is handled with the stylus. You draw a line from one dot to the next, and that's that. At least it should be, but in addition to the lag the input detection is abysmal. As difficult as it is to draw perfectly straight lines on a small device that you're holding in one hand, Mysterious Stars: The Singer introduces problems of its own by intermittently failing to recognise what you're doing.
In some cases we managed to draw an impressively straight line to the correct dot, only to have it vanish as though we missed it entirely. Other times we did miss a dot entirely, but the game connected them anyway. There was very little rhyme or reason in terms of which lines were being accepted, and even less reliability. Trying to get the game to let you connect two dots that are very close together is even worse, as the necessary lines are so short the game doesn't even realise you've drawn anything.
The control problems don't end with the input detection, surprisingly enough. You use the D-pad to scroll around, which is a bit sluggish but is overall serviceable. However, you also scroll the field by dragging the stylus on empty space. The game's already poor input detection becomes even more problematic here, as you may well be drawing a line from one dot to another, yet the game thinks you're trying to move the camera.
For a game about drawing lines, Mysterious Stars: The Singer shouldn't have had much room for error, and yet it found an awful lot of it.
There are a few positive aspects of the game. For instance, the illustrations that tell the story are quite clean and colourful. They might not be especially impressive, but there's nothing wrong with them, which automatically makes them the best thing about this whole mess. The soundtrack is also quite nice. It's not memorable, but it creates a gentle, calming atmosphere that helps a lot when you're about to hurl your console against the wall because the game couldn't detect the simple line you drew for the fiftieth time.
There are also time-attack versions of the levels you clear, which consist of you doing the exact same thing you just did, only faster. If somebody out there does manage to enjoy the main game, this might add some replayability. It does not, however, add any variety.
Each dot-to-dot that you complete gets a star rating based upon your performance, though these are score-based, and points are assigned in such an arbitrary way that we couldn't even promise you that the game isn't just rolling imaginary dice.
If you've been craving a dot-to-dot experience on DSiWare, we can't say that this will scratch your itch. If anything, we'd say it only reinforces the superiority of books. You don't need to scroll those, after all, and we've never had any problem with them recognising our input.
An almost obnoxiously simple game like Mysterious Stars: The Singer doesn't seem like it would have much of an audience to begin with, but the fact that it's bound to disappoint that audience is the real problem. We'd love to be able to tell you why a game that consists entirely of drawing lines on the touch screen suffers from control issues, lag, and poor input detection, but we don't know either. Perhaps that's the real mystery in the stars.