Close to the Sun Review

Richard Walker

It's impossible to play Close to the Sun and not have BioShock instantly flood your mind. From the typography and Art Deco design to the premise itself – a doomed vessel tearing itself apart at the seams rather than a doomed underwater utopia gone awry – everything about Storm in a Teacup's first-person horror, sans combat, whiffs of Irrational's deep sea, barnacle-encrusted classic.

Set aboard the Helios, a hulking, opulent ship created by Nikola Tesla, Close to the Sun wastes no time in engulfing you in narrative intrigue, the entrance to the ship emblazoned with the word 'QUARANTINE' in scarlet paint. Before you know it, you're wading through dismembered corpses and experiencing ghosts of the past going about their business: yellow spectres blissfully unaware of your presence. It all starts with a red trail that turns out to be spillage from a tin of paint, but from thereon out, you're in for blood and entrails. Almost anything can happen.

Why are you even here in the first place, then? You play as journalist Rose Archer, looking to track down and rescue her sister, Ada, a gifted research scientist stationed on the Helios working alongside Tesla himself. Guided by a mysterious chap called Aubrey over a radio and offered hints by Ada herself, there's an interesting interplay between Rose and her off-screen helpers, as you're gently nudged down the right path, which occasionally leads to an annoying chase sequence – one of the game's unfortunate downfalls.

If Close to the Sun's slow-burn exploration is adept at generating tension and deploying jump scares, the moments you're pursued and instructed to simply 'RUN!' manage to completely drain that tension. They're the least scary part of the game, as well as irritatingly trial and error, alleviated only by forgiving checkpoints that make failure a very temporary setback. Still, they're a minor misstep in a game that's otherwise rather effective at creating a quiet sense of dread.

The Helios is a cruise ship that harbours a multitude of stories in discarded notes and blueprints, or signs – like one to register for a shuffleboard competition or posters for the theatre's latest production (yes, the ship has a theatre). A massive seafaring vessel gilded and adorned with an obscene amount of marble, it's a wonder the Helios ever managed to float in the first place. Without exception, the game's environments are beautiful; opulent lobbies with floor-to-ceiling pillars and ornate theatres are stunning (and again, reminiscent of BioShock), but so too are rusted abandoned laboratories, engine rooms dominated by gigantic pistons and gears, and cavernous chambers housing huge Tesla coils crackling with blue electricity.

Light puzzling, finding keys to activate lifts and locked doors, and throwing switches are your main activities in Close to the Sun, when you're not admiring the scenery, or when you're not having a mild heart attack as you sight strategically placed bodies that cast eerie shadows on the walls, or grinding your teeth as something loud and ominous lurks around the next corner. Don't worry – maybe it's only a corpse's arm trapped in a broken automatic door, or perhaps it's that knife-wielding maniac or some other toothsome monster that you encountered earlier.

In its quieter moments, Close to the Sun is a smart, well-orchestrated survival horror game, but when it veers off-course, for a bout of sprinting away from a manic pursuer, it loses something. And while it's difficult not to compare Storm in a Teacup's game to BioShock, thanks to its Art Deco interiors and deftness in playing with your expectations, this has an identity all of its own. Ultimately, Close to the Sun is a very good, lovingly crafted adventure, slightly flawed in its execution, but its 4-5 hours prove memorable all the same.

Close to the Sun

A very competent, well-made survival horror adventure with clear BioShock inspirations, Close to the Sun is a smart and compelling game marred only by some ill-advised showing of naff monsters.

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Strong voice performances and an excellent score conspire to make this an atmospheric and engaging survival horror adventure. Kudos too for shoehorning in a Die Hard reference.


A very attractive game with gleaming gold and marble environments; bloody, corroding corridors; and a very palpable sense that the Helios is a place that's seen some shit. It's hampered only by a chugging frame rate and stupid monsters.


A mite on the clunky side, interacting can be a tad woolly at times and Rose's movement is sluggish, perhaps deliberately so. Rubbish chase sequences are also an exercise in trial and error guesswork, but exploration is pleasurable. Until it gets scary.


An intriguing ten chapter storyline that proves compelling from beginning to end, Close to the Sun is fairly standard survival horror fare, with enjoyable exploration and no combat to muddy things. Shame about those crummy chase bits. Did we mention those?


Complete the game, find and gather all of the collectibles. Done. Oh, then complete the game in less than three hours without dying.

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