Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

Looking forward to “Grounded”

If you’ve seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “The Ant Bully”, or “Antz”, you might like the following title. In Obsidian Entertainment’s “Grounded” you’re playing as one of four kids, shrunk to the size of insects and other small critters. You get to roam a lawn, exploring vast grass-steam forests while scavenging and foraging for resources to survive the dangers that come with not being normal-sized.

The world is beautiful if you look close enough – and well, with your size, you can get close to everything. Ants are as big as you while stink beetles and ladybugs are terrifyingly big! Of course, there are also small critters like mites that you can hunt down for food and… well… as the game tells you in the title screen, there are also spiders. But fear not, fellow arachnophobes, for there is an arachnophobia mode in this game that lets you turn those horrific and vile creatures into weird bobbly balls floating in the air. This also affects their creepy sounds, resulting in a pleasant experience even when you encounter them.

I constantly caught myself staring into the beautiful areas around you – I mean, when if not now do we get to see the world from this perspective?

Houses and benches are huge! We even get to explore “landmarks” such as some weird shrinking machine and soda cans. Resources seem to be rather lush and alas, we gather pebbles and sprigs, mushrooms and clover, so that we can get started with some simple tools for the beginning.

While you chop down trees in other games, you’ve got to chop down the grass, using an actual axe. Quite bizarre in a way but it does make sense. And well, despite stink beetles, spiders and mites wanting to kill you, there are also a bunch of friendly fellows around like ladybugs and ants.

I love ants. The ants in this game look incredibly cute, constantly scavenging for food, just like us, or carrying around sticks and pebbles. “In theory”, I thought… “In theory, I could attack them. I’ve got the spear and all of that already, after all!” – But I didn’t dare to attack such cute little fellows, mostly since I’m afraid that they might gang up on me after sending out their threat pheromones.

There seems to be a full-fledged story available to the game once it comes out but inside of the demo I was able to play for more than half an hour – and the story-part reached until we fixed the (presumably) shrink-reversal-machine that Spoilers blew up on us shortly after we “fixed” it.

Materials can be analyzed for recipes inside of the analyzer that is set near our research globe. Food can be cooked at a roasting spit and, in theory, we can even build a base of sorts with walls, doors and floors!

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game, especially since it does tickle that one itch that I have for base-building survival games! Especially as it also features unconventional aspects to survival. You’ve got to find water drops on grass stems to not dehydrate, for instance, which is a nice touch!

Multiplayer is also something that is going to be included in the full game, so this might get really cool really soon. Grounded gets released in Early Access on July 28th, 2020. It’s by Obsidian Entertainment, so it’s bound to be good, and well, the game so far has been looking great already, especially as this is only a demo!

The only thing that I’d wish for would be an option to turn the spiders into some cute beetles or something, as even the bobbly heads are a little bit triggering to me. I’d also love it if you could turn their sounds into something else that is less creepy. But maybe that’s just my arachnophobia speaking…

Cheers!

Indietail – Void Bastards

What does it take to become a good mercenary? What does it take to outwit your opponents, to survive? What does it take to escape the Sergasso Nebula?

Well, according to today’s game, Void Bastards, it only takes water, prisoners, and a whole lot of sneaking.

In today’s Indietail we’re taking a look at Void Bastards, a rogue-lite Stealth-Shooter that could probably be best described as FTL meets System Shock. You play as one of many prisoners that get sent through the Nebula to eventually just escape its fangs. On your way, you’ve got to manage resources, fight or outwit enemies, chose between different paths to take, and routes to walk through.

Developer: Blue Manchu
Publisher: Humble Games
Genres: Stealth, First-Person, FPS, Action, Rogue-lite
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4

The framework gameplay revolves around you navigating your tiny little escape pod through the nebula by choosing different paths and ships that seem to be procedurally generated. This aspect reminds me heavily of “FTL: Faster Than Light”, which was quite pleasant as it directly contrasts the seemingly action-heavy inner gameplay-loop that revolves around sneaking and shooting. There are a lot of different ships to explore from shopping ships, manned with only gun-point-turrets at max, to medical bay ships or cargo ships. Each of these come with different supplies, loot tables, allies, and enemies.

When you board these ships, you’ve got to find the next exit and loot the ships for items, resources, and materials. Obviously, you can also just move past the ships and skip out on potential dangers at the cost of loot but I usually ended up just going for the looting-experience as I felt that it would be too much of a waste.

The different ships all feel different.

There are different musical pieces as well as different layouts that these ships can have, resulting in a unique experience whenever you board a ship.

In the beginning, you’re only equipped with limited ammo as well as weak(er) guns but over time you’ll upgrade them – and throughout your runs, you’re able to keep all the upgrades as merely your player dies and as there are plenty of other convicts to send out in the Nebula, each equipped with their genetic traits, making the experience rather unique similar to how your genes make you taller or colour blind in Rogue Legacy.

While I used to just run and gun every ship, trying to get as far as possible with my limited ammo, I quite often ended up dying prematurely due to missing ammo and/or drastic actions, but that’s not what Void Bastards is about. In the beginning, I also didn’t see the comparison to Bioshock but over time I came to realize:
It’s a stealth game.

Awww, cute! It’s a tourist!

Just because you have a gun, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to use it.

You don’t have to kill most people and usually, you’ll end up getting killed if you take on too many or the wrong enemies. Essentially, the best way to survive in this game is to sneak past enemies, to lock doors, potentially trap enemies in different rooms while looting ships and making it further and further into the void. Your gun is your friend but more often than not you should just rely on sneaking and immerse yourself into the unique atmosphere that each ship has.

Every sound you make can be the last sound you make. A neat little gimmick that the game has is the fact that it displays sounds made by you or enemies on the screen. Thump, thump, thump… Step, step, step… BAM! BAM! You get the idea! It felt similar to XIII, a game for the original XBOX that used to utilize a similar comic-gimmick with the sound-displays, the cell-shading and generally the vibes that this game has as well.

But despite being able to take a trip down nostalgia-road with all the gimmicks and references to System Shock, XIII, or Bioshock… the game still has flaws that can’t get ignored, in my opinion.

For instance, the game gets rather monotone and repetitive over time.

Monotony-wise…
The soundtrack is monotone and seems to be lacking something as it only features 23 different tracks that all sound way too similar. The game doesn’t shine when it comes to the music, which is – in my opinion – a bummer as it really could have done more there and as it really could have been more fun if the soundtrack accompanied you during stealth- or action-passages.

As far as repetitiveness goes…
Part of the reason why I always wanted to rush through the levels was the fact that I felt rather uncomfortable having to face a game like this with its monotone music and all the stealth going on without any action at all. Once you realise that Stealth is your best friend, you have to get married to the idea of being sneaky. Sneaking through ships, looting caches while not getting seen… it’s the most successful way of playing this game and essentially you’ve got the whole game figured out if you get to that point.

And well, the whole gameplay loop may be flawed at this point…
I know that every run can’t be completely different when it comes to rogue-likes but I personally found that there wasn’t much replay-value there past the first few hours. You already have seen plenty of the game after a few hours of gameplay. Same goes for the campaign… I didn’t find it too entertaining for something that is supposed to take “12 to 15 hours”, resulting in a bit of a negative experience for me personally. The humour and the initial impressions with the comic-like presentation are rather cool and entertaining, I’d say, but they don’t outweigh the other issues in my opinion.

Alas, I don’t think that I really can recommend this title. For a game that costs thirty bucks without any discounts on Steam, I would have expected a bit more. If you aren’t bothered by repetitiveness in stealth-rogue-lite-shooters, I’d say go for this game… at a discount.

Either way, I hope that you enjoyed this post and I wish y’all a wonderful day. I was really excited about playing Void Bastards but in the end, I got a tad disappointed as the game became stale over time, which is a bummer.

Oh well, cheers!

Indietail – Catlateral Damage

If Earth was flat, cats would have thrown everything off of it by now. 

In today’s Indietail, we’re taking a look at a game about doing just that: Flipping stuff off shelves, tables, and basically making a mess. After having been left alone by our dear owner, we’ve got to trash the owner’s place. We’re cats after all. 

Understandable…

Today, we’re reviewing Catlateral Damage!

Developer: Chris Chung, Fire Hose Games
Publisher: Chris Chung
Genres: Simulation, Cats, Casual, Destruction, First-Person, (VR)
Release Date: May 27, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Just like Kill It With Fire, House Flipper and other games in the genre, Catlateral Damage, the First-Person destructive cat simulator, is making use of the joy the player feels when they’re wrecking a place. It’s the joy you feel whenever you break some pots in a Zelda game or when you shoot big ridiculous enemies with big fucking guns in Serious Sam. The premise works, I’d say. 

Wow, that’s huge! We can’t possibly destroy that, too, right?

You’re a cat that is wrecking its owner’s place… or the supermarket… or the museum. There are a whole bunch of different places that you’ll be able to wreck and mess with and usually, there are hundreds of objects to toss around! 

The controls are rather easy and quite intuitive as you just move around with space and AWSD while striking stuff with the three mouse-buttons. While the game can be played in VR, I was not able to test that experience since I don’t own a VR-headset. But, judging from my experience, I would say that I personally would never try the game out in VR simply for the reason that I already felt quite dizzy rather often while playing the game… and I don’t want to deal with motion sickness in VR. 

Never mind!

The game features the Litterbox Mode (Sandbox) and the Objective Mode (Campaign). The Litterbox Mode has no time limit and allows you to just go into any level of the game and use a seed of your choice so that you can wreck a place as much as you like. The Objective Mode, on the other hand, brings you into a level and gives you a certain time-limit to wreck a certain amount of objects.

During the course of your playtime, you’ll encounter several in-game-events from “Disco Fever” to hunting a mouse around the house. There are a bunch of events that are just fun and don’t do anything for you while there are also others that reward you after you have completed a challenge of sorts. I personally really enjoyed one of the more “trippy” events where all of your stats are maxed out and where you jump around and strike things at hyper speed. There is also another one with “moon gravity” that allows you to… well… fall very slowly and jump very high. 

Speaking of rewards and stats, you have three stats that can be upgraded through upgrade-boxes or through event-rewards:

  • Swat (determines the force of your paw-strikes)
  • Speed (self-explanatory)
  • Jump (self-explanatory)

I found speed and jump to be the most useful, although having all of them upgraded usually helps you a lot with the wrecking and stuff. 

By striking certain plants and interacting with other (sparkling) objects, you’ll receive upgrades as well, which is a fun idea to change up the gameplay loop. 

Worst thing is… it’s still cleaner than my place even after the “Wreckoning”

Overall, I feel like the premise of the game is fun and interesting but the gameplay loop is rather lacking in a way. Having certain challenges like “the floor is lava” or some sort of race would certainly mix things up and provide more value for the money you’re paying. There are about twenty playable cats that you unlock through achievements and challenges, as well as a bunch of collectables that are just waiting to be found. On top of multiple secret levels, you can also find references to other games on DVD-covers or action figures, which is rather amusing, in my opinion.

While the idea of collecting pet pictures, is rather neat, I don’t necessarily find it that exciting. The game is fun at first, especially due to the rather colourful environment, the chill tunes and the “destroy everything before your human returns” premise… but it gets stale, which is a bummer. 

They even referenced Easha over here!

Catlateral Damage is available on steam for about ten bucks but personally, I’d wait for a sale on that game. After about two hours, I already got bored of it. I guess I’d get back to it here and there again but unless they add a whole bunch of new tasks and challenges as well as more gameplay-elements that up the challenge or add more variety to it, I wouldn’t be willing to play more of this or pay the full price of ten bucks.

So, would I recommend it? Yeah, but with a discount on it. 

Lovely kitty!

Hope you enjoyed this review. It’s been a while since I last posted but University is keeping me busy and my game time seems to be limited to the occasional stream, so I’m not really getting to blogging or reviews in general unless I do these reviews on stream. If you’d like to see me play some of these Indie Games on Stream and if you’d like to see the process of me playing something, talking about it and taking notes/screenshots of things, be sure to check out my twitch channel over here. 

Either way, I hope that y’all are staying safe over there!

Cheers!

Valorant – My First Impressions

Valorant is the new thing and I’ve got a beta-key, woohoo.
In this post, we’ll talk about the latest release by our favourite Indie Game Studio, Riot Games!

Only a few days ago, Riot released their take on the tactical shooter genre, Valorant, for PC in a Closed Beta. To get keys for that Beta, you had to lurk in Twitch Streams that had these drops enabled. To enable those drops, Riot had to choose you to do so which is why Twitch was having a few problems here and there for the past few days as a ton of people have been lurking in summit1g and some other streams.

And yeah, I guess I’m part of the problem, too. After all, I’ve got a key, too, and I’ve lurked in probably eight different streams for two nights in a row, leaving my PC on for that time while I slept and I was rather successful to get a key and to now be able to present it.

Alas, I’m able to tell you about what a great game Valorant is… well… I don’t know if it’s that great.

I mean, I’ve never been much of an FPS-player… let alone someone who likes to play tactical ones… Every now and then I did play my share of shooter games, I guess, but more often than not I didn’t really stick around to them all that much. Overwatch is a perfect example for a game that was fun to play but over time got changed so drastically that it wasn’t fun to play anymore (RIP Mercy)… and Destiny is still fun to play but I mostly play PvE in Destiny and, therefore, I wouldn’t really count that one.

But why then would I get out of my comfort zone and play yet another shooting game or rather a tactical shooter that could be compared to Counter-Strike: Global Offense?

Well,… I guess “it’s new and I’d like to try it out” is the most perfect fit for that kind of question. I like Riot Games and was quite excited about their take on the Auto Battler genre and the card game genre, so I wanted to see what they’d bring to the table in FPS games and well… they are really trying hard to create a new Esports of sorts.

After all, they are pumping a hefty amount of money into this. Not only is this game built for low-end PCs (with minimum and maximum specs that are quite old now and shouldn’t be too hard to achieve) but it also features 128-tick-servers which should get rid of a ton of the “I was covered, how did that hit me, hacker hacker” crap.

Essentially, the server-stuff is quite expensive and Riot isn’t exactly making money right now with Valorant but it shows that they’re serious about this and are really invested in the idea of having two huge esports games. I guess the only way for them to make money off of this is selling skins and maybe some faster access to characters and stuff. I could also imagine there being a paid battle pass in the future but I so far haven’t seen any loot boxes, yet.

The game seems to be aimed to become a special mix between CS: GO and Overwatch, as it features several different “agents” from different countries of the world, each with their own abilities and personalities.

While the agile duelist Jett, for instance, is able to dash around and create sight-blockages for other players, Sage is more of a Support-character who’s able to provide crowd-control in form of a slow and an ice-wall and heals for allies. There are a total of ten agents right now in the game and while they have a perfect mix of all kinds of abilities in there, the gunplay and the player’s skill are not meant to be overshadowed by certain characters’ abilities.

That’s at least what Riot said themselves, which is why a big chunk of the current player base is complaining about Raze, a duelist that has four different offensive abilities with three of them being able to insta-kill you, being the complete opposite of what Riot wanted.

Raze, Jett and Sage aside, there’s plenty of male and female characters with their own characteristics and their own quirks. I enjoy playing Sage (Support Main forever), Raze (the Valorant-version of SC2’s Protoss), and Pheonix (a very hot dude).

While there are different characters with different abilities, overall the game’s not too different from Counter-Strike. There are a few different maps with different zones where you need to deploy a bomb at (if you’re on the attacker team) while the defender team is trying to stop you from doing so. Alas, you either plant the “spike” (aka the bomb^^) and defend it or you try to kill everyone and defuse the “spike”, to stop the terrori- eh, attackers!

There’s been some CS: GO fanboys out there who are criticizing Valorant for being like a cheap version of CS: GO but I don’t really see all that much of a point to talk one down and lift the other one up when in fact nothing has changed for ages now in CS: GO (as far as I know). They are two sides of the same coin and Valorant is trying to keep things simple with no distractions on the map while implementing quick and fast-paced rounds that can go either way with nothing being lost after just a few rounds.

The abilities are a nice take on the genre, the guns feel really great and precise, and you can actually use the ADS on a ton of them while customizing your cross-hair, too, which I reckon might be great for a lot of professional players.

I haven’t experienced any toxicity yet, despite the voice chat being a thing in there… but I’ve noticed that a lot of the Counter-Strike-players are picking up the game rather fast and are leaving complete newbies like me in the dust already, which is a bit bothersome.

There’re also some cool mechanics here and there with gun recoil and spray patterns and whatnot but I don’t get that stuff, honestly. A lot of the weapons feel strong but there is no “overpowered” weapon right now. It all depends on how you use them.

For instance, I like going for the Ghost (pistol) and the Judge (shotgun) or the Ghost in combination with one of the snipers. I just like these weapons. The Guardian can quickly take out multiple enemies but I still need to get better at learning the maps, aiming, and overall I just need to “gid gud”, I guess, but that will have to wait as I’ve just now spent about two hours exploring the shooting range map and doing a stupid jump-n-run that can be found here while trying not to cheat it at all. Was a lot of fun.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. There are some people out there who don’t have drops enabled but put it into their titles regardless of that. If you ever encounter one of those, ignore what’s in the titles and check their tags and if it says that they have drops enabled under the title and if it doesn’t, please report them as falsely advertising your streams, using misleading titles and misleading categories is against TOS, afaik.

Apart from that, I will probably post a bit more about Valorant every now and then once I’ve got some more first impressions, but I don’t think that I’ll play too much of it soon… Regardless of that, I’m excited to see how this one goes. It’s easy to learn and thus, I really enjoy watching it on Twitch, which is not the case for CS: GO, which I personally find boring.

Anyways, have a nice day! Cheers!

This post is part of a challenge called BLAPRIL. The goal is to post as much as possible during the 30 days of April. There are different themes during some of the weeks and a lot of mentors, newbies and participants participating. Feel free to check this hub-post out and check out the other participants!

Indietail – Lightmatter

When I was younger I discovered a game called “Portal” and I just fell in love with it. It was one of the first “better looking” games that I played. The puzzles were interesting, the aesthetics were great, I loved the music, the humour was really dope and made me chuckle a lot, and I ended up just falling in love with the game overall. Portal 2 was great as well as it added new mechanics to the game and as it really added a lot to the overall story. There have been just so many new layers to it and GLaDOS was just great in that one. Oh, and Co-Op. I loved the Co-Op campaign and playing through it. I still need to take a look at the Timemachine fan-made content and play through that eventually, so I’ll look forward to that.

But in today’s review, we’re not talking about the Portal-franchise but rather about a small Indie Game called Lightmatter by Danish Studio, Tunnel Vision Games! Lightmatter is essentially a homage to all kinds of first-person puzzlers, including Portal. It even plays in the same universe (which was made possible due to a contact with Valve that the Publisher, Aspyr, had!) before the first game and overall feels like a love-letter to the whole genre with its shifting and mind-bending mechanics involving… Light… matter.

Developer: Tunnel Vision Games
Publisher: Aspyr
Genres: First-Person, Puzzle, Indie, 3D, Adventure
Release Date: January 15th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on:  PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Copy was purchased. (Full Game Upgrade)

Lightmatter can be described as “The Floor Is Lava!” but with Light and Shadows. Essentially, you’re in a scientific company, called Lightmatter, that tried to create a CORE which would be providing sustainable and renewable energy to millions, using a crystal that is able to materialize Light! Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well… something went wrong during the launch and us, the protagonist, ended up not getting evacuated with the remaining guests that were part of the tour. So, the facility is falling apart and we have to get out of there: Though be careful: Just like Light, shadows also materialized and thus, you’re not allowed to touch any of them since they will absorb you and suck out any life you have in your brittle body!

Hence, Virgil, one of the CEOs of Lightmatter (voiced by David Bateson), is accompanying us throughout the facility in order to guide us into freedom and help us get out of here. Virgil is more of a sinister character. He’s unfriendly and very rude in the beginning but begins to open up over time as we solve puzzles after puzzles to reach the goal, in the end. He tells us about the project and his plans. He tells us about his achievements and what went wrong and over time he develops as a character, revealing his hatred towards journalists and his arguments with his former partner. He even compares himself to Cave Johnson, who was alive at the time before eventually dying to moonstone-poisoning, and he’s even putting himself over Cave.

Virgil’s first appearance!

David Bateson is able to breathe so much life into this wonderful character that Virgil is. He’s an overall fan-favourite in the community and is able to fill the gaps and pauses in between and during puzzles just wonderfully. When you take too long to open a door or move on, he’ll mock you in a cynic and rude way that just makes you chuckle. He’s like GLaDOS but male and less robotic (and less potato-y). He’s very charming and charismatic in a way and he really tried his best to provide the world with a… brighter future, even though all his efforts were for nought in the end, as the project ultimately failed.

Gameplay-wise the game is working with a ton of different elements. Since shadows are dangerous, you need to illuminate your pathway to the next exit using lamps. These lamps, however, are rather heavy, resulting in you not being able to jump with them, ultimately making the game a lot harder than it would be if you could. You have to rethink your approach to a level quite often – and while earlier levels are rather easy to solve with just a button press needed, later levels get rather difficult.

James and Lux!

But while difficult, you never really get set back too much and it never really feels too punishing. And while every lamp provides only limited light to a cone in front of it, you never had to fiddle your way to the end. It was more about utilizing the tools and mechanics you learned and then bending the rules to fit your goal. The game also works with other mechanics like shifting platforms, buttons that are activated via light, and other cool mechanics that I don’t want to spoil here.

Even falling into the shadows just resets the level a little bit (your last lamp-movement mostly) and brings you back to the last checkpoint. The shadows are like an obstacle, not a punishment. And that’s something I really appreciate about Lightmatter. Dying doesn’t feel frustrating and the puzzles were challenging enough for me to have fun and yet not just rush through the levels.

THE CORE! IT’S SO BRIGHT!

Rushing through the levels would have been bad, after all, since most of them are riddled with small secrets and collectables. You can find out more about the backstory by finding tape-recorders with Elle’s voice. You can also try to search for Lux, the security manager James’ cat! Here and there you also find other little easter eggs like a bath duck in a corner or the Gravity Falls journal, so levels are really fun to explore.

And then there is the presentation. The graphics really play with the Lights and the shadows, and hence with a lot of contrasts. I feel like the levels were designed quite well and ended up providing a lot of detail in rooms that were mostly riddled with shadows or filled with light. It never was just one thing or the other. When there is light, there are also shadows, which also reflects the question behind the whole game: At what cost can you ensure a brighter future? What risks would you take to save millions? What’s one life when waged against many, or rather a few hundred against the rest of humanity?

Dev Commentary: Lasse and Ulrik talking about one leve of the game here.

The music is quite ominous quite often and really got into my head. While Virgil is talking about his arguments and his struggles to complete this plan, there is this ominous and enigmatic sound lingering in the background that is just quiet enough for it not to be overwhelming but also loud enough for you to notice it.
The game even provides you, when turned on, with the devs’ commentary if you want to play through the levels for another time and hear something about the development and different stages of the game.

But flaw-wise… there isn’t really much to talk about here. I think that Lightmatter really is a very well-crafted game that is able to create a wonderful experience when you play it through the first time or when you even play it for a second time to unlock a different ending. Here and there I felt like there are times where a small “hint”-button would have been quite neat as there are two levels that are a bit tricky to solve, especially when you don’t know about moving sideways, which is something that even the devs noted themselves. It’s something that FPS-players will find normal while other people might not find that understandable and which would take them a while. But overall it didn’t really bother me too much. Apart from that, having a few other ways to engage and interact with your environment and objects would have been quite neat. There’s a vending machine at one point that can be used but apart from that there is not much to click and push in the levels.

Coming to a conclusion, I’d say that Lightmatter really is a love-letter to First-Person-Puzzlers that manages to not only create a beautiful atmosphere in challenging puzzle-levels but also create its own identity, so that it doesn’t seem like “just another puzzle game”. It really is creative in how it unfolds the story and how it makes you utilize different aspects of the game and you can essentially taste the blood, sweat and tears that the devs put into this lovely game. I’m chuffed to bits.

Beating the game takes about six hours, I’d say, or more if you explore more or need to take more time for certain puzzles. It took me about two hours to get through the first half of the game and about three or four hours to beat the second half.. and to unlock other endings you can also just hop into single levels later on, so there is no backtracking needed. The Dev-Commentary also adds a whole new level to it with voice notes that are four to nine minutes long and tell you more about the process of the level-design and different changes in the game, as well as funny things like running-gags (a cat called Lux) becoming a real thing and getting put into the actual game. It’s well worth a listen if you’re into that kind of thing!

The first hour of the game can be played for free on steam while the rest of the game can be purchased with a single upgrade, which I find quite fair. It’s worth the full price, I’d say but of course, you can also wait for sales or just playtest the demo first. Definitely a recommendation from me!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this review. Until the next time, have a nice day! 🙂

I wonder if they have Dr Pepper in there…

Cheers!