Developed by the small 4-man team at Just a Pixel, Light is a minimalistic stealth-action game that puts gameplay ahead of flashy graphics or a heavy handed narrative.
Waking up as an amnesiac test subject for Synthesis Futuristics, your life is a blank slate, although your surroundings are oddly familiar. Who are you? Where are you? Stealth and technology are your weapons of choice and you’ll soon find the answers you seek, but sadly, it’ll all be over before you know it.
When you think stealth games, the names Metal Gear Solid or Watch Dogs may come to mind, but Light is more akin to playing inside of their HUD instead of the game itself. It’s an amalgamation of the retro visuals of Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, and the no-nonsense top-down controls of Hotline Miami, where you’ll dip in and out of rooms to avoid detection, hack terminals to disable security cameras, and take down guards as you escape the Synthesis Futuristics laboratory.
What occurs during your escape is a pretty fascinating tale told entirely through found documentation, or described in text pop-ups between levels. As a former test subject, your goal is to uncover the truth and expose Synthesis Futuristics’ vile plan to store data within the human brain; known as Project: Light. I was genuinely interested as the story played out, but I was rather disappointed when the final level concluded and I was immediately whisk away to the main menu for nothing more than a scrolling credits display. No closure. No pat on the back. Just credits.
Since minimalism is the name of the game, you’re limited to basic actions like movement, attacking, or hacking, but gameplay is relatively smooth for the most part. Your square protagonist is controlled using the ASDW keys, and if stealth isn’t working, you can always just bludgeon guards with the space bar instead. Taking down guards provides you with the opportunity to equip their uniform as a disguise, thus turning your blue square red and narrowing the enemy’s cone of vision in the process, but doing so oddly triggers an alarm that claims the body was immediately discovered by another guard.. even if one isn’t around.
This questionable occurrence took place every single time I used force over stealth, which brought the mechanic in to question the entire game. You can even drag dead bodies and hide them in closets, but doing so never cancels or prevents the alarm altogether, so why does the option even exist in the first place? This, combined with random occasions when guards would spot me through walls, or when swinging doors would fling me across the room, either ruined the experience completely or lead to an unnecessary death. Granted each level can be completed in just a handful of minutes, but that doesn’t make it any more fun.
The entire escapade only lasts about 40 minutes, give or take your skill level, but moments like these made Light feel like an incomplete game. For the record, it’s a full retail release on Steam, not Early Access, which brings its technical flaws in to question even more.
When everything is working as intended though, Light is definitely a fun game with a lot of promise. Objectives are clear and there’s always a way to complete them without murdering anybody, but I just didn’t get to spend enough time within its world to fully appreciate what it had to offer.
Is Light fun? Yes. And while Light presents a rather unique visual display and some fun gameplay mechanics, it’s unfortunately held back by its technical faults and extremely short length. Its only replay value is improving your completion times or besting your personal hi-scores, so it’s possible to see all the game has to offer in less than an hour. I don’t usually have a problem with a game being too short, but when you combine its length with its obvious flaws, it makes its $12.99 price tag a hard pill to swallow. On a more positive note, your purchase does include the game’s soundtrack, which was pretty fantastic.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications. He’s an aspiring video game journalist, Baltimore native, and a diehard Orioles fan that favors roguelikes, horror games, and point-and-click adventures. His favorite console is the Dreamcast, favorite game is the original Metroid, and he could watch The Goonies for the rest of his life. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow his insanity on Twitter.