A surprise addition was just added to Xbox Game Pass. Close to the Sun is a 2019 release that features weird time rifts, Nikola Tesla, and a lot of running from puzzle to puzzle. You are Rose Archer, called to a ship to help your sister Ada who is a brilliant scientist. Can you press X a lot? Are you able to occasionally run forward when need be? If so then the alt-history world of Close to the Sun may be for you!
Close to the Sun takes place in an alternate history 1897. Starting on a small boat you’ll quickly make your way to the game’s star, the Helios. It’s an enormous ocean liner full of unbelievable inventions thanks to Nikola Tesla and his band of merry men (and women). Your character has gotten a mysterious letter from her sis and finds things going just swimmingly. Everyone seems to be dead, mostly torn to pieces, and this once vibrant Utopia of science is a hellscape of death and misery.
“Time is not a river” is written, often in blood, everywhere. You’ll uncover mysteries, see lots of death, and interact with a few characters throughout your journey. Most of the game is you alone solving basic puzzles and finding keys. Occasionally a chase sequence will make you hold the left trigger to run for 30 seconds, and on a few key occasions, you’ll come across other living humans. Their faces look weird and they animate oddly, but I digress.
Close to the Sun is a pretty basic narrative game. Movement is a bit stiff and turning is slow on controller. I’d recommend turning up the sensitivity on Xbox to at least 1.2 as the default turn speed is like turning through molasses. A is a very small jump that I rarely used. X is your main interact button, which can be infuriating as the angle at which you can activate things is extremely finicky. Left trigger is to run, and Y will bring up your current objective.
The majority of the game is walking/running around the Helios as you avoid lightning/fire, and solve basic puzzles. Most of the time it’s “find a key on the ground” or “look for a 5-digit number of 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. The only other major types of gameplay are the occasional chase or stealth sequences. There are a few enemy types you’ll have to avoid and those were my least favorite sections. I far preferred exploring the gorgeous ship and taking in the lore as my sister, a guy named Aubrey, and Tesla all talked to me.
Close to the Sun’s biggest strength is how its graphics, sound, and story come together to create a memorable play space. The Helios is gorgeous, feels enormous, and houses some interesting story beats. I beat the game in roughly three hours, and as far as I can tell there is only one ending. Honestly it’s a perfect Game Pass game, though it does seem to end in a bit of a massive cliffhanger.
It’s short, beautiful, has solid writing and voice acting, and a thoroughly creepy atmosphere. There isn’t much music, I think the game’s entire soundtrack is a single song that’s a few minutes long. Most of the time you will be hearing the creaks and groans of the ship, occasionally intermingled with the screams of its inhabitants.
Performance was a bit rocky at times on Series X, with hitches that could last a second or two when entering or leaving areas. Thankfully it never happened during chase or stealth sequences, so it never negatively affected the gameplay.
Wrapping Things Up
Close to the Sun is short, sweet, and a solid yarn. It takes an interesting alt-history setting and is pretty enough to put up with occasionally clunky gameplay. It’s short at only 3 hours for a full playthrough, so it’s worth giving it a try if you have any interest in the premise.
Close to the Sun
Xbox Series X
- Darned Pretty
- Solid Voice Acting
- Great Setting
- Clunky Controls
- Zero Replay Value