A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
Burnstar is an odd duck. It is a challenging puzzle game that draws on previous elements from old games. While it somewhat evokes the nostalgia from those other games, it ultimately fails to be as enjoyable or addictive as other games in a similar vein. It makes a valiant effort to create a unique experience, varied from games like the Bomberman series, and while it shares some striking similarities it is sadly inferior to it. These differences ironically, are what cause it to fail somewhat.
The plot for Burnstar is incredibly bare-bones—even for a puzzle title. The actual plot doesn’t appear to be told in the game, in any capacity. It’s shown via trailers and on websites where you are able to purchase the game. The story is explained as having an evil mega-conglomerate come in and start to alter Burnstar and his friend’s homeland. The company is lazily named Evil Incorporated and Burnstar and his friends have to fight for their home, burning down Evil Inc’s property and damaging their reputation. It’s less exciting than it sounds. There’s no voice acting, and no disposition other than the small amount hinted at in boss battles. The story isn’t very well presented and you need to really go searching for it. Though it’s important to remember that this is a puzzle game, but it would be nice to be able to get a bit more in-depth story without having to resort to the Press Kit for the game to get context.You can play as one of four Heroes. Burnstar, his sister Ember, a female Evil Inc scientist, and a clone of the game’s antagonist. They each have their own unique abilities. Burnstar can do a quick brief dash to run along conveyor belts while his sister Ember can generate a shield of invincibility. There is a downside to her shield, however. If you activate when an enemy walks towards you, the A.I will just camp there, waiting for your shield to drop. You then die instantly. It is very handy against traps and we played the majority of the game as her. Coldsnap, the Evil Inc scientist has the ability to snap-freeze obstacles and traps. The last character is Toxo or rather a clone of Toxo. He has the ability to clone himself and teleport to that clone.
Throughout the game, you will encounter all sorts of traps, like “mashy spike plate”, fire-breathing turrets, pools of flaming toxins, spike blades, lasers, and exploding creates. While avoiding those traps, Burnstar and co need to destroy the crates and burn away the toxins. The Toxins can be used to string together combos. Some crates explode next to other crates and create chain reactions using the toxin, and even the traps. Some traps can set off these chain reactions and the player must figure out the best way to maximize damage to Evil Inc’s property. The game suggest you use a controller to play, but I found I had no troubles controlling Burnstar via the keyboard.The explosives are very limited, so it becomes important to destroy with maximum devastation and maximum speed. If a level is completed 100%, collecting all the stars in the level, including the ones embedded in the floor, and burning everything, then a secret level unlocks. The secret levels aren’t anything to write home about and towards the end I lost interest in unlocking them, as the game doesn’t seem to have much replayability. Luckily to finish a level, I didn’t have to collect 100$ of the stars. It seems to be only 70% of the stars that I needed collecting to progress, which was good, as some levels were infinitely frustrating. There’s these block enemies that look like normal scenery in the level until I encountered one. It popped out and killed me, when I was nearly done with that level. This was rather cheap and I was not impressed. Once all the levels are completed, the boss level is unlocked. These parts are kind of frustrating, as it’s not so much as a boss as it is acting like Pac-Man. Toxo (the real one) chases the player, firing off bombs and all sorts of other weapons as he tries to kill Burnstar. During all of this, the player must collect stars while being chased and avoiding Toxo. All the stars must be collected 100% otherwise, the level can not be passed, and the whole ordeal really got on my nerves. There’s no agency during these “fights”, just running with your tail between your legs and there’s no feeling of winning.
The overall gameplay is quite challenging, not just because of the cheap traps and really unfair enemies, but also because it’s quite easy to trap yourself in a flaming pool of toxin. As well as this, a couple of the puzzles are clever. Some solutions are simple while others require an immense amount of thought, planning, and time you don’t really have. I blitzed through most of the levels, even managing to collect a good number of the game’s collectibles before coming to a brick wall. Two or three levels in the game had me stumped for an hour or so and I found I had to take copious breaks from the game to think laterally and solve the level.The game’s graphics are pretty standard fare for a puzzler. Every asset on screen is colorful and very noticeable. The detail on textures is fine for a game like this and there are no instances where you will be unable to figure out what killed you. It’s very fast paced and the presentation of the chain reactions and explosions are quite enjoyable to watch combust. There aren’t really any particle effects and the toxic goop doesn’t really look like toxic waste. Everything is very colorful and varied, even the characters and textures. Some levels have many blocks copy pasted and are rather drab, but, for the most part, the set-pieces are different.
As for sound, the game isn’t anything special. There are only a few tracks to the game and they’re quite repetitive. One or two are enjoyable but after you have heard them for the hundredth time, it really grates on you. Each level has the same music within a world, except for the boss levels. There is no voice acting in the game, which is unfortunate but the sound effects for the traps, explosions, and powers sound correct. while the sound design isn’t anything terribly special, it’s not horrible and does its job.I personally didn’t enjoy my time with Burnstar. For everything it did right, I found there were too many things wrong. Burnstar entails a lot of trial and error and while certain challenges can only be completed with specific characters, it didn’t provide enough replayability for me to revisit the game after completion. The ending is practically non-existent and while burning things was cool, ultimately the game felt empty, with no real achievement. I finished Burnstar and was left with a feeling of “So what now?” I could have gone back and completed the secret levels and finished 100% percented everything, beating the time limits, but I really didn’t want to. I may have judged this game too harshly, however, expecting too much from a puzzle game. Burnstar certainly does have its moments of pyromania fun, but for a game that feels like it’s trying to capture the spirit of Bomberman or Blast Corps, it doesn’t achieve the addictiveness of either. Burnstar is a game for anyone who likes games that require lateral thinking and much trial and error, as well as experimentation. That being said, I’d suggest waiting until it comes down in a Steam sale before buying it.