These days, a lot of people love Nikola Tesla. Tesla deserved Edison’s success and recognition, they say, and should not have died penniless and obsessed with pigeons. His achievements remained pretty obscure for many years after his death, so the resurgence in Tesla-mania over the past couple of decades is fortunate for Close To The Sun, a fact acknowledged by Joel Hakalax, game designer at Storm In A Teacup. Close To The Sun, which I’ve gotten a new hands on with, is set in a world where, basically, Tesla won.
Tesla was the sort of person who should probably have had an HBO drama about him by now, and as the dev team was putting together the initial pillars for the game, having one be ‘Tesla is in it’ proved rich pickings. “It didn’t matter what kind of string you pulled — towards his scientific endeavours, towards his personality — no matter what you pulled at something interesting would kind of fall out,” Hakalax said.
While Hakalax noted that he had to “be careful” when talking about it, a key part of the story in Close To The Sun is that your sister has been fiddling with time, and exploring it as a potentially infinite source of energy. A very creepy NPC chases you and yells that this whole situation is your fault, which it sort of could be. Maybe you’ve just not done whatever it is you did yet. So it sort of makes the plot impossible to guess at.
The main influences for Close To The Sun are games like Soma, Layers Of Fear and Outlast. It’s a horror game but, Hakalax said, doesn’t lean into the horror quite as much. Rather, they’re using the tools of horror and suspense to keep the player on their toes. That’s not to say that I didn’t get a few scares in the hands on, but it also made me laugh. I followed a trail of blood around a corner, only to find that it was a can of paint. It also has a slicker, smoother experience to it, that I believe film fans would call “cinematic”. This is in part achieved by a system Storm In A Teacup have put under the hood. You won’t know it’s there but, in theory, events will trigger based on what you’re looking at. The idea is, Hakalax said, that the game will communicate more to you personally as a player, and what you’re interested in, rather than making it feel like the game is being played for you.