Starless Hotel by Pulsarnik Productions
Starless Hotel starts off rather mysteriously. A man driving a car at night finds a hotel in the middle of nowhere. The driver decides to go in, despite noting how strange this hotel is. He then soon finds out that this is no ordinary hotel.
Find the Key…to Finding More Keys
Starless is your standard-fare first-person horror game. It’s a short experience with plenty of keys to find, pages to read, the occasional keypad lock, and some backtracking. For example, I’d get a key to a room. Inside that room would be a note and another key…or just a note on where to find a key. Overall, the gameplay is not difficult so don’t expect challenging puzzles or expertly hidden keys.
The gameplay may sound very familiar – a lot of games in this genre rely on finding keys or pages to progress – but Starless Hotel does its best to make itinteresting. The game is sectioned off into five different sequences, so each time the environment changes.
And it’s more of a psychological horror experience than a jump scare one, even though it has a couple of those. There isn’t something that’s constantly chasing you. It feels more laid back in its approach, with an emphasis on narrative as opposed to creating something scary.
Edgy but Blunt
I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it goes into some dark themes. The protagonist has an unpleasant past. And there is plenty of symbolism to help players piece together what happened, as well as newspapers that give out key narrative points. I felt like the themes could have been handled with more tact and nuance to create a narrative more open to interpretation and theories.
Since the narrative is so direct, I understood the narrative bullet points and synopsis of what happened. I wouldn’t say I was heavily invested, but I was curious enough to learn more. It could have used more dialogue or text to flesh things out, maybe a bit more explanation of why certain things happened. This would have helped make the narrative more engaging.
Literal and Metaphorical Darkness
Starless Hotel looks fine overall for what it sets out to do. Sure, it could have gone for a more realistic look, but its graphics make everything clear. Different areas of the hotel are distinct enough to keep you from getting lost. Lighting is not so dark to keep you from spotting items in the distance. It’s a small hotel but big enough not to feel too claustrophobic.
The psychological elements of the narrative also bleed over into its visual design. Giant chess pieces, dice, and playing cards scattered around all tie into the protagonist’s character. Blood splattered on walls and the ground creates a gruesome sight, and the mysterious person who stalks you from time to time to berate you is effective. It all does a good job of creating a wholly unnerving atmosphere.
I had some fun with Starless Hotel’s psychological horror experience. It’s rough around the edges, and I do feel like the narrative could have been fleshed out more, but there is enough here to create an interesting ride. If you’re itching to play a short game with a psychological horror emphasis, check this one out.
Starless Hotel is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Starless Hotel below: