App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Verily well met, most esteemed and dear reader. On this day, the stars shine upon us most fairly and speak of a wondrous new invention. Methinks it is of the name Astrologaster, and I dare say ‘tis a game of a kind most amusing. It may well be on the more simple side, and it may occasionally vex, but let not these hard truths deny you the pleasure of pursuing this page-turner.
Reading the stars
Astrologaster is essentially a choose-your-own adventure game that takes place in Elizabethan London full of characters with period appropriate mannerisms and speech patterns (hence, the flowery intro). You play as notorious “doctor” Simon Forman (a very real historical figure) as he treats his patients using his most peculiar method of reading the stars.
If this sounds like a bullshit way to treat patients, that’s because it is. William Forman was not a very good doctor, and Astrologasterreinforces this point through its design. The game consists of a long series of consultations between Forman and his patients, and they all end with you arbitrarily choosing between a variety of wildly conflicting answers that have some tenuous connection to the celestial signs in the night sky.
Fun with Forman
The main drive of Astrologaster is the game’s story, which takes the individual trials and tribulations of Forman and his patients and weaves them together to paint a coherent and connected picture of England in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Beyond simply name-dropping items of historical relevance like Shakespeare and the Spanish Armada though, Astrologaster manages to cook up a really interesting and charming cast that you end up caring about and wanting to help.
As it turns out, although Forman’s actual methods for diagnosing and treating patients is totally bunk, Astrologaster gives you, the player, the tools you need to accurately identify what is wrong with your visitors and what they should do to get better. Context clues drop constantly throughout the game, and picking up on the right ones at the right moments let you appear to look like you might actually have secret star-based doctor powers.
This doesn’t mean you have to always guess what’s wrong with a patient correctly, though. If you’re not one for close reading and making inferences, the game is ok with that. Astrologaster doesn’t reach a fail state if you happen to guess anything incorrectly. In fact, some of the game’s most humorous moments come from seeing Forman struggle to justify a wild diagnosis to one of his customers.
Although the game is a formulaic stream of dialogue choices, it’s hard not to fall in love with the world of Astrologaster. This is thanks to the game’s writing and voice acting, both of which are superbly sharp and charming. Each patient visitation is prefaced with humorous, couplet-based songs that are sung in beautiful vocal arrangements and followed up by a fully voiced scene between Forman and his visitor that is usually rife with double entendres, clever quips, and sexual innuendos.
The only times I wasn’t enjoying myself with Astrologaster were when the game occasionally robbed me of its enjoyable aural presentation. Several times throughout my playthrough, audio cut out abruptly, characters spoke out of turn over each other, or full sections of dialogue didn’t match their subtitles. Whenever this happened, I was much less invested in playing Astrologaster. Luckily, this did not happen too often to put me off of it completely.
The bottom line
If you’re going to play Astrologaster (and you should), you absolutely must play it with headphones. The game casts a spell with its voice work and writing that enhances the bizarre tale of Simon Forman to the point that you might have a hard time putting it down. Forsooth, Astrologaster is a most wondrous invention. Huzzah!