Something for the weekend: Hoshi Saga

Iain Simons recommends something to while away those office hours. But don't let the management see

"This game is to discover a star hidden in a stage"

Yoshio Ishii's sublime Hoshi Saga offers only those words by way of explanation, and then leaves you to explore. Challenged with this simple goal your task is to variously uncover or create stars by experimenting with the different elements of each level. Initially, this is a childishly simple and utterly arbitrary game of hide and seek but don’t be misled - the game rapidly evolves into something altogether more imaginative. By level three, it's apparent that you're playing with the results of a design experiment which has yielded some startlingly inventive work. 

Minimal, monochrome design and a sparse soundtrack allow you to focus entirely on what this game is really about, the playfulness by which the star is revealed. Whilst entirely mouse-driven, don't be led into thinking that pointing and clicking is necessarily always the answer. The stars you seek are formed by chipping away at blocks of pixels, pulling away corners of leaves of paper, photographing the cosmos... Each level is a sealed game within itself which usually uses an entirely different mechanic to the last. Endlessly inventive, the quiet mischief that bubbles throughout is a joy.

Hoshi Saga really is a bookmark-able treat that rewards your patience amply with its quiet charm. It knows you’re going to want to return to it, and automatically saves your progress to make this effortless. Should you make it through to the end, I'd like to direct you to trying the sequel - combined these will easily keep you going until this time next week. More from the brilliant Yoshio Ishii soon...

Play Hoshi Saga and Hoshi Saga 2

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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