You’ll die within a few minutes of starting your first game of Don’t Starve. It’s to be expected, frankly. And once you get over the incredulity of that sudden death you’ll try again. You’ll do things differently. And maybe you’ll survive a bit longer.
That’s the point of the game, after all. Survival. And it’s not so easy because this quirky adventure game, from Vancouver’s Klei Entertainment, comes with no tutorial or instructions. You – and your character (you start with Wilson, “the gentleman scientist”) – are simply dropped into the world.
Wandering around clicking on objects is the first and easiest thing to do. And really that’s all you need to do in this game. You’ll need to figure out how much grass to collect and what’s the best thing to eat and how to craft the tools of survival. An axe. A pick.
But then the sun begins to set and it’s getting dark and you don’t know how to light a fire. And then it’s dark and you’re being attacked by things you can’t even see and you’re dead.
And when you die, you die. There’s no loading a saved game if you make a mistake. If you starve, or get killed by spiders (or other creepifying creatures) that’s it. You’re dead. Or rather, Wilson is dead. You’ll have to start a new game. But every time you do – and you will want to begin anew – you’ll do something a bit differently. And you’ll survive a bit longer.
In one sense, Don’t Starve is survival horror, because the dark world Wilson inhabits is certainly horrifying. This game isn’t zombie or blood-and-guts horror, it’s scary in the Gothic sense of the term: strange and unnerving and just at the edge of familiarity.
It’s a bit maddening to play Don’t Starve, but you’ll find it weirdly compelling. Every time you die you’ll try again. Surviving just a bit longer than before.
($14.99 for basic, $19.98 if you want the creepy soundtrack too. Developer: Klei Entertainment; Platform: Linux, OS X, Windows, coming to PS3)