It has been an eventful year for the UK-based independent developer Nyamyam. May 2nd, 2019 saw the first release of their newest title Astrologaster for the iOS system, and May 9th will bring the game to both PC and Mac via Steam. Astrologaster promises a light-hearted narrative based on the life of a little known astrologer at the time. Was there any merit to his findings, or was he merely telling his patients what they wanted to hear? You decide how to interpret the patterns in the stars and unconsciously weave together the lives of your unwitting patients. This is our review of Astrologaster.
A NEW CHAPTER
Nyamyam’s creative director Jennifer Schneidereit first came across the idea for the game when she saw the University of Cambridge’s Dr. Lauren Kassell present her research on Simon Forman’s casebooks. From then on, she fell in love with and completely immersed herself in the world of Simon Forman and his peculiar studies. The game’s website proudly boasts that the inspiration for the consultations comes from Dr. Forman’s real patient records, carefully investigated by Dr. Kassel’s own research team in cooperation with Nyamyam.
CONSULTING THE STARS
Moving through the charming pop-up book style pages presents a surprisingly immersive experience for the stargazer behind the screen. Our story takes place in what is described as Elizabethan London in the time of Shakespeare, offering a nice backdrop of the city in between some transitioning pages.
Playing as Dr. Forman, you must cater to each patient that walks through your door and attempt to provide a solution to their ailments by reading star charts. ( Even if one of your patients does happen to be a rival doctor sporting a fake Italian mustache.) So how are we as players with no innate knowledge of medieval astrology supposed to accomplish this? Through a stargazing minigame, of course!
“Consulting the stars” is a fairly intuitive process but some consultations rely heavily on the context of the conversation you just had with your patient. While some illnesses may seem straightforward, others are not, and if you blacked out for a few seconds during your dialogue with the patient you might have missed some crucial information that could set some of the choices apart. My main regret with this is that I couldn’t find an option to replay the dialogue or to pause the encounter as it was happening. Note to self: Manage child or puppy aggro before sitting down for a consultation with a patient.
In between each appointment, there are entertaining madrigals that you can sing along with. Each of these little theme songs proceeds the meeting with a specific patient and can end up divulging details you might have missed about your patient before. That poor woman who was afraid to marry her suitor because he was of ripe old age? She came to you to find out if he was in poor health and if she should go through with the marriage. What a shame that after they got married, a bagpipe enthusiast moved into their flat and her husband found a viper in the dresser that gave him a heart attack. Oh, but won’t you be a dear and tell her about the health concerns of her newest husband?
SAVING YOUR PROGRESS
Something to keep in mind as you continue on your journey to win your medical license is that this journey is a one-way trip. Unlike most games, you can’t go back and start from where you previously saved your progress. If you diagnose your patient as being bewitched when she’s only guilty of an upset stomach, you’re stuck with the consequences of your actions. Once you begin, you have to see your career through to its possible tragic end (unless you want to start over completely from the beginning). The game automatically saves your progress as you move from patient to patient, but you, unfortunately, can’t go backward in time to capitalize on that.
Since you can only go forward, unless you would like a clean start, your journey feels purposeful. You have to own up to your decisions and accept your mistakes for what they are. As a doctor, you are treating illnesses of both the body and mind and your decisions don’t just affect you. They affect the lives of your patients and the people woven into their lives.