Don’t touch the dark side
Developer: Tunnel Vision Games
Release Date: 15 Jan, 2020
Lightmatter is a puzzle game where you have to play with light sources in order to avoid strange, dense, man-eating shadows. The game follows a the-floor-is-lava approach where the ‘lava’ can be made harmless by illuminating it. This creates a lot of different opportunities for puzzles based on the movement of different illumination object (lamps and such) in order to, well… not die eaten by shadows.
It’s free to try!
A little note before the actual review of the gamer: Lightmatter is a free-to-try game. What does that mean? It means that you can play it for the first hour for free, and eventually buy the full version and bring all your progress in it if you like it! If this review does not convince you, try the game, it’s worth a shot!
The story of Lightmatter proceeds mainly thanks to the CEO of the Lightmatter company, which will not only guide us through the gigantic structures and laboratories, but also explain to us what Lightmatter is and why we are in the current flesh-eating-shadows situation. This character alone brings a portal-like sensation to the game, which is also set in the same universe (the CEO will, in fact, cite Aperture Science and its experiments multiple times during the course of the game), taking the same role that GLaDOS had in the portal series: a character serious at time, sarcastic in others and with a general disregard of safety (or human lives).
The CEO is also the inventor of Lightmatter: a new and renewable source of energy which, according to him, could save humanity as a whole. With photon crystals, he built the CORE, basically a perpetual machine which generates more energy than it consumes (and breaks a physic law or two by doing so). Everything goes wrong during its inauguration though, and you find yourself trapped in the facility, surrounded by strange, dense and pitch-black shadows.
Playing with photons
As I already said, the way puzzles work is by forcing the player to light paths that are otherwise filled with shadows. This usually involves moving equipment from one way to another, while also having to deal with bridges, switches and, you know, puzzle stuff. Puzzles do work and are enjoyable, but the difficulty curve is tuned a little too much on the easy side and this makes all puzzles, except the very last ones, a little too simple. When progressing in the game another aspect about puzzles becomes obvious: they lack new elements. The game introduces lamps at the very beginning, photon cells (basically light-activated switches) and then photon connectors, special portable turrets than can create “wires” of lightmatter, creating corridors of light. These three elements are only used together in the last levels, and are too little for 3-4 hours of gameplay. Light-based puzzles inspire lasers, mirrors and, why not, batteries! Why are these simple elements not part of the game?
Talking about what actually is in the game, though, puzzles are quite solid and well thought, have a good flow and are rarely frustrating (and that’s also because of the low difficulty).
Graphically the game looks nice and, even though it uses for the most part very dark, gray-scaled colours, its graphics do the work. Sadly there are not particularly good vistas on graphically-memorable moments and, even if we are talking about a game set in an underground lab, something more could’ve been done. It’s not that the game is graphically bad, it’s just… good. Luckily the simplicity allows for good performances even at higher resolutions, and the game can be played even on older GPUs.
Lightmatter is good puzzle game that could’ve been an easy Autosave if it wasn’t for the lack of content regarding the puzzles. With it, though, Tunnel Vision Games proved its worth, so hopefully we’re going to see a more complete Lightmatter 2 in the future!