Apple Arcade: ‘Star Fetched’ Review – A Black Hole of Bugs and Bad Design

Star Fetched is one of those games that looks perfectly good at first glance — it’s got some creative art, interesting worlds and enemies, controls that are designed with a touchscreen in mind, and a lighthearted tone that feels right at home for mobile devices.
It’s an impression that could last through the entire first world, if you just continue moving forward in the order that the developers intended. But eventually, the cracks will show, and it’ll become clear that this is a game that needed a lot more testing and a few more redesigns before it went live.
For me, the first sign of trouble came when I realized that the wall jump was designed in a way that prevented me from climbing walls, but the double jump completely undid that design decision, letting me climb sheer cliffs with ease.
I wondered whether this was intentional or not — a question that was answered when I decided to backtrack and found that the enemies I had bypassed ended up frozen in space and not loading properly. I even found a blueprint that I had missed, but it was for a weapon that I had already found later in the level. I restarted the game to see what was going on, and discovered that the blueprints were different when I collected them in the intended order. The game just didn’t expect me to be able to backtrack.


Thursday January 01, 1970

This set the stage for what the entire game would be like. I would slip through walls and get stuck outside the levels, I would find enemies that wouldn’t attack because I approached them from a different direction than they expected, I would see creatures start shaking in uncontrollable spasms because their animations weren’t working properly — I even managed to accidentally make my way into what appeared to be an uncompleted world where the collision detection had nothing to do with the terrain displayed.
I did manage to make my way to what I think was the end of the game, and fought what I think was the end boss. I died during what I think was his final form, returned to the boss room, and… there was nobody there. I was free to walk to the end of the level and take off in my spaceship. There was no victory cutscene, no continuation of the story, and no further levels, and I couldn’t get the final boss to return no matter how many times I replayed the stage. I was stuck in a bugged-out game with no way to beat it unless I played the whole thing over.


Thursday January 01, 1970

Frankly, I didn’t want to. Even if every single one of the endless bugs didn’t exist, there are plenty of problems that make it a tough game to recommend.
The most-glaring issue is the controls. The idea of tapping the right side of the screen to shoot and swiping up to jump might seem like a clever way to avoid onscreen buttons, it introduces a problem: the controls make it very difficult to jump and shoot at the same time.
This isn’t helped by the fact that jumping has a single fixed height, unlike other sidescrollers that allow players to choose the height of their jump by how long they hold down the jump button. So, unless an enemy is exactly as high off the ground as your jump allows you to reach, you’re going to have a bad time knocking them out of the air.


Thursday January 01, 1970

This is made worse when using an automatic weapon like the Bone Gun.  There’s a unusually long delay between touching the screen and the Bone Gun actually firing, and players have to stop firing in order to jump, so if you’re hoping to shoot an enemy that’s anywhere besides ground level, the controls render the gun absolutely useless.
The Bone Gun is far from the only weapon hurt by the game’s controls. In fact, the way that firing works makes all of them lack the sort of punch and timing that’s required to make a side-scrolling shooter feel satisfying.
I had mentioned before that the game does boast some good art, and that’s definitely true. There’s no shortage of imaginative designs on display. All the creatures look unique and suitably alien, while still managing to stick to a unique aesthetic that ties it all together while standing out from most other games on the market.

Unfortunately, the game’s good designs don’t extend to the level design, which very rarely rise above simple adequacy, and occasional descends far below that standard. Some levels. There are very few parts of the game that seem designed with a specific challenge in mind — instead, it’s just terrain to travel through with the occasional enemy in the way to spice things up. Some of the mid-game levels are even pretty easy to get lost in, because one part of the level seems just like every other part, with no landmarks or unique experiences to stand out in players’ minds.
There’s definitely love and passion that went into making Star Fetched — enough that it feels like a shame that I can’t score it well. But unfortunately, it’s a game that would only be mediocre if it worked properly the whole way through — and it doesn’t work properly, so I can’t even give it that.
 

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NOTE: Star Fetched is available on mobile exclusively as part of Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service from Apple. Without being a subscriber to Apple Arcade you cannot download and play this game. Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month and does come with a free one month trial, you can learn more about it on Apple’s official website or by visiting our dedicated Apple Arcade forum.