The Town of Light - PS4 Review

The Town of Light is a fascinating if unsettling story that is seen through the eyes of a sixteen year old girl. The visual style is unique if not fantastic, with a thick atmosphere that is held back by limited gameplay. This is an adventure game that can fall into the walking simulator category for the most part, which allows you to explore - but at a pace that is going to be too slow for some gamers. There is some payoff here however, for the patient who are willing to survive not just the tale, but some technical challenges along the way as well.

Mental illness is a tough topic that means different things to different people no matter the symptoms and diagnosis, so kudos to LKA Interactive in trying to tackle such a tricky subject with their game. Some aspects of this work better than others as we are forced to explore a storyline that takes place in an abandoned asylum - which is an oft-used but still incredibly effective setting for a horror game.

Our protagonist is Renee, who lived there in the forties and begins to explore and interact with her environment as you lead her through the asylum. These interactions allow the team to peel back the layers of the story slowly, revealing more about what happened here. On a technical level, it is clear that this is an indie studio - but the visual style does compliment the story and the excellent music, even if it is a more cartoon approach than photo-realistic. Unfortunately, the character models are really, really rough and I noted a handful of instances where animations seemed wonky or just completely lacking - almost as if the team lacked the time/money/experience to pull off a game with complete and fluid animations. The sound design holds up far better however, and in many ways is a more important element to creating a creepy atmosphere, because music and sound effects often occur 'off screen' and help to engage and tickle your senses beyond just what your eyes are showing you.

To this end, The Town of Light succeeds in presenting its story in a compelling way. The things Renee has seen are seriously no joke, and I was somewhat reminded of The Last of Us. Obviously there are worlds of difference between the two titles, but there is an unflinching approach to the content in The Town of Light that is dark, depressing and seldom lets up. Like The Last of Us, The Town of Light has a tendency to hit you over and over again without giving you a lot of respite. This can make for a compelling experience, but not necessarily a 'fun' one. That being said, the themes are ones that interested me, and compelled me to see the story through, despite some design choices that left me frustrated with the game.

For one, the puzzles are almost painfully obtuse at times. I will be honest, some of these environmental puzzles just make absolutely no sense and have almost no context within the game itself. Once you put them together and trigger an event or flashback scene, you can see why they are important to Renee and happen the way they do, but we as the player do not have Renee's actual memories or context, leaving the player to do a lot of pixel hunting and random environmental fiddling for no apparent reason. Thankfully these are usually few and far between, with the majority of the simple puzzles easier - perhaps almost too easy - to figure out. Outside of these? There is almost nothing else for you to do as you walk about the asylum in Renee's shoes over the roughly four to five hour journey.

So is The Town of Light worth playing? For me it was, despite the somewhat disappointing act of actually playing the game, because the tale is engrossing and the ending is incredibly memorable. Heavy - dark and heavy, not unlike the rest of the game, but memorable, and those kinds of experiences really stick for me and are what make video games such a compelling medium for me personally. However, if you do not generally like slower paced games focused on exploration or are looking for a fun game with lightweight themes, The Town of Light is absolutely not for you.

Game Information

PlayStation 4
LKA Interactive
Wired Productions
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Xbox One

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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