Buried Stars, available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, is a Korean visual novel that was finally translated into English and released on July 30th. It tells the story of 5 aspiring stars who got caught when the stage ceiling collapsed. Ironically, all this was being broadcast live as part of a competition-based reality show called Buried Stars (aka BStars), and now their only means of communication with the outside world is social media. How cruel can a person be to murder others just for fun when you just survived a disastrous incident?!
Stardom Comes at a Price
Our main characters are the bassist Do-yoon (the one we play as), the dancer Inha, the former idol Juyoung, the singer Gyu-hyuk, and the social media influencer Hyesung, as well as a staff member called Seil and the producer of the show, Seungyeon Shin.
Buried Stars, the most popular competition-based reality show, is now in its 4th season. It's the last episode, and people are voting to see who becomes the new winner, with Gyu-hyuk taking the lead but all of them accumulating fans and detractors. When the stage roof collapses, everyone but the finalists and 2 staff members evacuate the venue on time, and most importantly, unharmed. Thanks to her working smartwatch, Inha is the only one who can contact the rescue team, and they inform her it will take them around 6 hours to get there safely. Now, these former competitors must work together if they want to stay sane and get out of there alive, but everything changes when they find Seungyeon's body lying dead on the floor...
A Different Approach to Escape Room Visual Novels
Buried Stars' gameplay is somewhat unique as it combines both approaches to escape room games. On the one hand, they all need to work together and keep their sanity while they wait for the rescue team, so it's important to act calm and help them all to avoid some stupid decisions that could risk the whole team's integrity. At the same time, a random social media account claims to be the dead producer, not only informing the audience that the contest goes on regardless of the accident, but also changing the rules: instead of just leaving the show, every hour, the one in the last place will be killed unless they confess their sins.
Is the producer really dead? If not, who is impersonating her, and why? Most importantly, how could this impersonator know she's dead—and post it online—if only the 6 trapped guys saw the body and they can't log off or switch their social media accounts? You can't trust anyone, and if this is not a joke, the killer could come for you at any moment!
The Importance of Social Media: A Lesson to Be Learned
The gameplay revolves around talking to every survivor, gathering information, and using that to unravel the murder mystery or get more fans to vote for you and avoid death. Whatever the case, the use of Phater (a Twitter-like app) is crucial, and Buried Stars doesn't shy away when it comes to representing the toxicity of a fandom. Some people will genuinely show their support for you, while others will take every available opportunity to attack you even if you're on the verge of death, be it because of the accident or the alleged murderer. Of course, there's also a lot of morbid people who join these Phater threads just to see if people will really die or encourage them to attack each other, physically or psychologically, even if they have never seen Buried Stars before.
Just like in real life, keeping your sanity is not precisely easy when you're browsing your social media feed, but dealing with anxiety and PTSD definitely won't help you either.
Buried Stars is a fantastic visual novel that strikes you on all fronts. It's about winning a popularity show, it's about supporting each other and surviving together, it's about exposing a potential traitor/murderer, and it's also about dealing with toxic people on social media. Simply put, it's about dealing with other human beings and how selfish they can be when it comes to a matter of life and death.