Star Yonza

by Betaproject

Educational
2016

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A sci-fi adventure that needs development before it can shine, September 14, 2022

Our PC is Yonza, an alien protagonist seeking out a life with purpose. Often games opt with human protagonists with diverse alien NPCs, so I like the game’s approach. It is also a game about gender and life circumstances. As Yonza you will explore these issues by interacting with a diverse range of characters.

Gameplay
The decision at the start of the game is to pick between the Rebel Alliance and the Federation. If you choose Rebel Alliance, you go home to share your decision with your family before leaving to find Rebel presence in the city so you can accept your first mission. This part involves hanging out at bars and burger joints until you find the correct password to meet with other rebels. If you choose the Federation instead, you will automatically be assigned to a mission. This too, involves investigating culinary establishments but character encounters have some variation.

The game has the player roll dice for some choices, but dice concept is only used a few times. I am not particularly a fan of games that rely on dice, but if they are going to utilize it, I feel like they should stick to it. This game abandons it early on. The game also does not say that you need dice at the start of the game so you might be left hunting for one after the game begins. Or you can skip but I still gave it a try on my first playthrough.

Eventually, the game becomes less interactive. Aside from choosing the order in which to talk to people, which does not affect anything, the gameplay consists of clicking on a single link at the bottom of the screen. There is also a lot of text on the screen that can be difficult to process. I recommend playing this game at least twice to experience its content.

Story
The game's genre on IFDB is "Educational," and its description says that its goal is to tackle queer issues in a sci-fi setting. This is an excellent goal. Science fiction opens all sorts of possibilities with alien species, locations, technologies, and political customs that act as a backdrop when exploring present day subjects. For an author, your mind can go wild while conveying important messages to players. In fact, there already are games out there that analyze crucial topics about social issues and human rights through their engaging stories. Star Yonza would be the same way if it did not suffer from unpolished implementation. The idea is still important, but it is too confusing and scattered at the moment for its idea to leave a mark on the player. I liked how the game portrays a diverse range of family structures, such as with Yonza’s family, but the rest felt murky.

There are two story points that the player investigates. The first is (Spoiler - click to show) housing displacement in the aftermath of a civil war, and the second is a lumber resource conflict. The player interviews a selection of individuals for both issues. The most cohesive part of the game is talking to NPCs about their experiences. This is where the game starts to dig in with subjects about housing and economic equality. For each case the game lists NPC responses on the screen so you can compare them until everyone has been interviewed. The gameplay then shuffles on. I found it difficult to outline the game’s story structure and plot elements, but the ending (Spoiler - click to show) is lighthearted. It is about cultivating your own family and friend support system with the people around you. It also a satisfying ending for Yonza because everything seems to click into place.

Visuals
The game sticks to a basic visual design with white screen, black text, and blue links. The text was easy to read though paragraphs are formatted awkwardly.

There are quite a few spelling and grammar errors. I am not referring to pronouns which at first, I thought they were misspellings until I realized that they are intentional. I do like how the author strives diversify beyond him/he, she/her, they/them pronouns in a sci-fi work.

Final thoughts
Star Yonza is a short game (10 minutes) that you should play more than once to get the most out of it. Even though it seems to have (Spoiler - click to show) only one ending there is variation in the gameplay that can be enjoyed. The game is rough around the edges, something that would be alleviated through testing. Regardless, its characters, including Yonza, are still vibrant and its subject matter on queerness is still significant.