When word was first released about Klei Entertainment’s excellent 2013 survival title Don’t Starve making the jump to the PlayStation 4, I was concerned. The quality of the product on offer was never really in doubt, given the developer’s obvious high level of attention to detail and the sheer amount of atmosphere that the original edition of the game provided. But looking back through the years, mouse-controlled games that have been ported to console platforms – and the ham-fisted control schemes that have been dreamt up to enable them to get there – have been somewhat hit-and-miss. If Don’t Starve was to be even remotely playable on Sony’s newest platform, Klei would have their work cut out in finding a way of getting the DualShock 4 to play nicely.

I’m happy to report that they’ve pretty much hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Don’t Starve’s control scheme on the PS4 is as natural as you could ever expect it to be. The shoulder buttons are used well in conjunction with the new direct control over the character. And where the PC version of the game sometimes got a little fast and furious when it came to crafting – due to the game continuing on in the background as you select what you wanted to build – the console edition auto-pauses when you go into any complex menus. At times, that makes things seem a little slower and more methodical, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Best of all though, is that the developers haven’t been tempted to shoehorn in any gimmicky touch-pad nonsense.

But let’s wind back, for those who haven’t had the chance to check the game out before now. Don’t Starve is a game where – as the title suggests – survival is the name of the game. Dropped into a somewhat randomly-generated world with an empty inventory and free reign to do whatever you wish, your goal is to keep your character alive. You need to keep your eye on your character’s general health, hunger levels, and sanity, as neglecting to take care of one or more of these will end in your untimely demise. The darkness of nightfall – which is a constant driver that’s never too far away – can also kill you, so you’d best think about crafting torches and campfires in order to keep yourself safe. Eventually, you’ll find yourself building a home base. First you’ll just have your newly-built fire pit. Then you’ll gain the ability to build wall pieces out of hay. Then you’ll learn to build traps to catch a spot of dinner. Your character gradually evolves from being a hapless individual who is a few cooked petals away from starvation, to a rough and tough Beefalo-shaving pioneer who wears a puffy vest and a top hat.

The beauty of Don’t Starve though, is that you’re never even remotely close to being invincible. The whole thing can come tumbling down like a house of cards as you wander just a tad too far from your house and darkness falls, killing you before you can get home. Or you’ll do something daft like attacking a bee – just to see what happens, y’know? – only for a swarm of the things to rush to their companion’s aid, stinging you to death in the process. You can’t ever let your guard down in Klei’s wilderness.

Every time you die, your character is listed in the “Morgue” section of the intro menus, complete with your score – which is nothing more complex than how many in-game days you managed to survive through. Death in Don’t Starve feels more final and more painful than in other games though, it must be said. You spend hour after hour building up your shoestring empire, taming the wild ever so slightly and getting a foothold on the land, only for it all to be taken away in an instant. And once it’s all gone…it’s all gone. You start your next game as a nobody, a nothing. A speck of dust on an unfamiliar wasteland. So you start picking berries and collecting twigs, hoping to find enough stuff in order to put together something as basic as a torch so that you can at least last through to the second day.

Death is where players will be divided. Some will undoubtedly be frustrated by such a brutal and (usually) quick finish to hours of play, putting the controller down and likely not picking it up again for a good while. Others will see it as a challenge and they’ll head straight back in, steeling themselves for another battle against the elements. Your enjoyment of Don’t Starve will very much depend on which of the two groups you fall into. Also to be borne in mind is that while the PC version’s official mods aren’t making their way across at the current time, you do have the ability to tweak the game world before you start. Don’t like those Beefalo? Get rid of them. Want to absolutely pack the world with trees? Go for it. You have god-like abilities, and absolutely everything can be switched off, limited, or made to be more common.

Don’t Starve is an easy game to fall in love with. Easier than most, in fact. Mainly, that’s due to the combination of the vignetted art style, the humour, and a minimalistic soundtrack that really helps to bring home the feeling that you’re all alone and that you’ve got nobody to turn to. Kill the lights in the room, fire the game up at night, and the chances are that you’ll be as drawn into the hand-drawn action as much as you would with any triple-A blockbuster.

Review: Don't Starve (PlayStation 4)
Don’t Starve would have been a steal for £10. That for PlayStation Plus members the only expense to be considered here is time means that it’s a no-brainer. A solid port.
Pros
  • Beautifully atmospheric
  • Art style is outstanding
  • Incredibly challenging but rewarding
Cons
  • A shade too frustrating for most?
  • Perceived lack of direction
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)
9.1