Let there be light! Who is bringing the light? Ah there he goes with great style and aplomb, tis our hero … The Lightbringer.
Genre: Puzzle Platformer, Adventure
Developer: Rock Square Thunder
Publisher: Zordix Publishing
Release date: 07 October, 2021
Reviewer’s Note – Part One
I picked this game up because it reminded me of the Legend of Zelda and because it has been quite a while since I have done a proper puzzle platforming adventure game. While I have to say it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still quite enjoyable. I’m going to take a break from the norm and cut the reviewer’s note short, but we will return to it in a bit.
The Lightbringer is an isometric 3D Puzzle Platformer that has you exploring the land collecting lights to clear away the corruption covered portals. On your way you must solve some puzzles and deal with various enemies and obstacles. When I say puzzles, I don’t mean anything that is overly complicated, just find a missing cog, push some blocks around, locate a key, toggle giant fans and so on. The hardest part of the game is actually the platforming in my opinion, mostly because I’ve always had a bit of difficulty judging jumps in 3D, and the fact the camera seems to enjoy tricking you.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first so we can talk about the positives. There is a combination of systems in play that might be a bit divisive to the players of the game. Those who really enjoy mastering a level, will probably be fine with the system, those that feel like they are being punished for minor mistakes will likely end up disliking it to the point they may give up completely. There are no checkpoints in the stages and there is a health/lives system in place. This basically means if you run out of hearts, you lose all your progress in that stage and have to start over from scratch. This isn’t really that bad of a thing except for the fact that you can lose simply because the camera hid a gap on you or your depth perception was a bit off and you missed your jump. The enemies are also a bit annoying at times, if you get close to them they will chase you, which is fine and dandy, but sometimes the enemies will sit where you need to jump. You can jump on some of them, like a certain plumber has a tendency to do, but some of the enemies have defences against that. I ended up losing a level after collecting almost all of the collectables simply because an armored slime was on the spot I needed to jump to, and I was down to two hearts. I couldn’t hit it with my weapon so I had to try to jump. Unfortunately, the game classed me as being hit by the slime which took one of the hearts from me and sent me over the edge taking the final heart from me. Admittedly I took a break at that point and returned the next day to press on. I also encountered some game breaking bugs which caused me to lose all my progress as well, such as entering a building and falling through the world.
With the negativity aside, let’s focus on the positives. There are a number of collectables around each stage to encourage you to explore. You don’t technically need to collect everything to progress. You also can skip the current stage you are on and play the next one if you end up getting too frustrated with it. As long as you visited the previous level at least once, progress to the next one is unlocked. There are four chapters, each with a number of stages to complete. The game gets progressively more difficult as you move through the stages. As mentioned above, exploration has you mostly doing some precision platforming as well as locating items needed to progress. For example, you will encounter a number of turnstile-like devices that you will push around in order to rotate a platform. Sometimes it will be missing a gear which you will have to locate. Usually exploring the area and entering any nearby places will do the trick. Once repaired, typically there is more than one suitable position for you to stop the platform in. Usually, one of the paths will be the one to complete the area and the other will lead you to collectables. Figuring out which path is which is usually not overly tricky. Each stage of a chapter typically builds on the elements introduced in that chapter. As you move to new chapters, new elements are added to keep it interesting. For example, the second chapter has blocks that vanish after you touch them, deep sand that slows you down and prevents jumping and other interesting elements such as fans. Figuring out how best to navigate and overcome the challenges is part of the fun.
Combat in this game is a bit different. You are not the typical sword wielding hero this time. In fact, you out right rejected the sword and selected a boomerang as your weapon of choice instead. The boomerang allows you to hit enemies from further away as well as allows you to interact with objects that are out of reach. You have the ability to free throw or precision throw the boomerang as well as charge it up. This leads you to having to do dodge rolls around the area while in combat to ensure you have a bit of distance between you and your target because you are pretty much defenseless until the boomerang returns to you. Basic enemies can be jumped on as an alternative to throwing your boomerang, but some enemies are armored requiring you to remove their armor before you can actually damage them. While some of the combat is optional, allowing you to just run past the enemies, sometimes you are locked into combat to open a gate. This combat can be a bit hectic due to having a number of enemies all after you at once. With armored ones or background elements preventing you from doing effective throws. Bosses are also something you will have to contend with but for the most part they are not too bad. Overall the combat feels like a bit of a distraction rather than a real challenge.
The story of the game is rather simple, and I won’t spoil anything. After the introductory sequence, the story is mostly given to you through smacking the bells scattered throughout the levels to get a bit of lore or by your rhyming sister giving you spoken lines of dialogue. Games of this genre don’t necessarily even need a story to push the game along, but it was a welcome addition to this one.
Reviewer’s Note – Part Two
As mentioned in my negatives, navigating the level can be a bit of a pain due to the almost punishing lives system. Sure, scattered around the long level are potions to give you back a heart you may have lost, but often they are themselves behind precision platforming or difficult challenges and you may end up losing a heart to get it. It would be nice if there were more potions available or better yet checkpoints. Even a map might be helpful to help prevent getting lost and taking on more risky jumps. I have to say that I got a bit conflicted while playing this game, part of me wanted to explore the world fully and collect everything, the other part of me didn’t want to take the chances and just progress so I would have more to talk about in the review. I settled for a compromise that I would seek out any collectables so long as I had at least half of my hearts left, and would make a beeline for the exit if I was in danger. Unfortunately, this cunning plan often failed for me, which forced me to redo a lot of the levels rather than progressing through all of the chapters. I have to say that having to constantly redo entire levels because of various little mistakes I made I found to be quite punishing and unfair. It really kind of spoiled the fun of hunting down all the collectables only to find they could be snatched away because of a bug or a misplaced camera/jump. Due to time constraints, I unfortunately have not had a chance to play the final chapter at the time of this review, but I do feel I am an expert at the first two and half chapters!
The over-worlds and dungeons of this game look very nice. Even the enemies, as simple looking as they appear are quite cute and interesting to look at. Everything is well shaded, and everything looks very charming. The water looks warm and inviting, but apparently you can’t swim so it isn’t a good idea to take a dip. I honestly have no complaints in this department.
I’ve been saying it a lot lately in my reviews, but I really enjoyed the soundtrack for this game. Something about it made it enjoyable to just listen to rather than play the game. The sound effects while simplistic work quite well. Your rhyming sister was an interesting character, and it was also nice when she would pop in to say something even though it didn’t really contribute much to the story. She actually speaks in English rather than just making random speech sounds so that is always appreciated.
Controls and User Interface
The controls are well laid out. They work nicely and are simple enough that you are unlikely to have much confusion. The game is really quite simplistic with the most challenging button combination being entering aim mode with the boomerang, targeting it, charging it up and firing it. Which is more or less just two buttons and a stick. I did try the game with keyboard and mouse as well, and it did work, however, I feel the game was better played with the gamepad.
The user interface, for the most part, is also perfectly cromulent. The real issue I had here is the angle of the camera. Sure you can rotate it around, and you are pretty much forced to swing the camera around a lot to ensure you are able to spot all the gaps, or to unblock your view, or to better aim your boomerang, but at any given time it is restricting your view of what lays ahead. Sure, there are areas where you can stand that shifts the camera and allows a more panoramic view of the area ahead, but I feel being able to tilt the camera a bit would seriously help with the woes I had for the precision jumps. The shadow of your character shows where you will land for the most part, but taking what looks like a simple jump and some how messing it up because you couldn’t see it properly gets irritating fairly fast. Especially since you will lose all progress for the level should it be your last heart and the levels are all quite long, with dungeons and other areas attached to it. Having to re-solve the puzzles just isn’t fun anymore, especially if you have done it multiple times already.
So, should you pick up The Lightbringer? If you are puzzle platform fan, then I don’t have any issues recommending it to you. It is an excellent entry into the genre. The art style is nice, the music is soothing, and the combat is simple and doesn’t detract from the platforming action. The platforming can be quite challenging to complete, partially by design and partially because of the camera/view and the general 3D world issues common to these sorts of games. The game breaking bugs, while present, are not that intrusive and rather rare. The sad fact that there is no checkpoint/save system does exasperate the bugs impact on the enjoyment of the game a bit more than it should. If you are new to the puzzle platforming genre, this is a decent game to start out with, just be aware that you will likely be redoing levels quite a bit. If you get frustrated easily and hate the idea of having to redo levels multiple times just because of a few accidents, then perhaps this might not be the game for you. I’d give this game a Save, as I enjoyed it and it is a good entry for the genre, but I am demoting it down to a Save for Later due to the lack of save/checkpoint system leading to a very frustrating experience of ad nauseam repeats of the same level. I will admit though, having the ability to save constantly would also spoil the game a bit because it would take the risk/reward element away of attempting to pull off tricky jumps to collect an item, but I feel like save points should still be a thing. Perhaps either allow a limited number of saves per level or make fixed save points that you can interact with, if you want to or not, scattered periodically throughout the level.