Light has style and it’s a good thing, too. Essentially a story-driven, text-heavy, top-down stealth game (there goes my hyphen quota), the entire experience can be completed in about 90 minutes, with little else to offer upon completion. Luckily, Light is loads of fun while it lasts, even if it may not be the most memorable thing you play this year—or even this month. It’s a game that offers something substantial and worthwhile, albeit quickly, which in today’s landscape is an increasing rarity.
The game’s plot is admittedly a bit clichéd (it's of the ‘evil corporation gone rogue’ variety), but its delivery via text kept me engaged considering the title’s overall length. Your character wakes up largely an amnesiac (yup), with little idea as to what’s happening or even why he is where he is. Luckily, a vague familiarity with the game’s environments has been retained, and as you move forward through the levels you can use it to your advantage. Light’s mechanics including hacking computer terminals, taking out foes, sneaking through guarded corridors, and eventually uncovering the aforementioned nefarious corporate plot. Of course, the visuals require substantial imagination on the part of the player, but you shouldn’t be playing Light for an immersive narrative in the first place. It’s presence is merely an added bonus.
Most life forms in the game are color-coded, with civilians sporting standard white, enemies a bright red, the player a solitary shade of blue. Meanwhile, items you can interact with are orange (mainly hackable computer terminals), and red foes project an illuminated “vision cone” indicating where they can and can’t see. It’s your job to retrieve crucial documents, avoid capture, and with each level take a step closer to discovering just what exactly is going on. For me, motivation to continue was less about advancing the story and more about reaching the next challenge, but maybe that’s my inner old-school gamer talking.
Gameplay in Light is fun, but it does suffer a few drawbacks. The first is a bit glaring [Ow, my eyes! ~Ed. Daniel Bischoff]; there’s a mechanic included that makes completing levels very easy if you choose to utilize it. If you sneak up behind guard without being detected, you can then “kill” it (a leap that taxes the imagination given the visual style) and swipe its guard uniform. This then puts you undercover and as long as you keep a fair distance from other guards, your cerulean square can breeze through almost every level completely incognito. It’s an odd oversight in difficulty that you’d think playtesting would have fine-tuned, even if it is entertaining to completely dupe the AI on the first few tries.
I gave developers Just A Pixel the benefit of the doubt, though, and assumed this was by design and on my second playthrough I avoided using the disguise mechanic entirely. I was pleased to discover that not only did this make the game substantially more difficult, but it also opened up a slew of hectic and hilarious scenarios that I’d so far rarely encountered. Tough enemy chase AI and frenzied run-downs suddenly became the norm and aiming to earn each level’s “no kill” bonus only amplified this further. My one issue during this altered play style is that guard AI is still a bit dim-witted if you avoid its field of vision. The ability for guards to more easily hear footsteps or track movements outside of their immediate field would have made things a lot more interesting.
Despite this, Light is a stylish game and it's precisely the audiovisual flair that somewhat excuses its uncommonly short length. The minimalist look grows on you almost immediately, and the future-tech beats of its soundtrack thump along steadily beneath the action as it steadily unfolds on screen. It’s a simple but effective overall aesthetic and is probably what will hook most gamers who eventually decide to buy Light after window-shopping on Steam. It’s one of those games whose charm can’t easily be resisted and aside from cursing yourself for adding it to your backlog, there’s little reason to take issue with that.
Still, Light’s shortcoming can’t be ignored and I’d have gladly traded the fun but ultimately trite storyline for additional levels—the total stage-count is a mere dozen. My experience was no-doubt enjoyable, not frustrating or negative, but it’s the bare minimum of enjoyable—perhaps with a supra-sensory cherry on top thanks to visual design and audio. It’s tough to wholeheartedly recommend Light given its imperfect brevity, but if you couldn't care less about the $12.99 price tag, then by all means give it a try. Click here to visit the game's page on Steam. There’s nothing wrong with a concise game that delivers a targeted and fun experience—just don’t expect to be blown away.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PC version.