Name: Light Fall
Developer: Bishop Games
Publisher: Bishop Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: PC
Acquired: A copy of this game was provided from publisher for review purpose
Light Fall is an action platformer developed by Canadian developers Bishop Games. It sees the player take control of a trickster character exploring the dark world of Numbra using his magic shadow cube to figure out what has happened to the land.
Like many video games before it, Light Fall starts out with an amnesiac protagonist lost in the forest. However, “The Boy” quickly discovers who he really is and, aided by the narration of a wise owl, what sort of world he inhabits.
Structurally, Light Fall’s narrative is a lot like classical myths and sagas. An underwhelming protagonist must journey across the land to find some lost greatness, and in the process become the hero capable of restoring it. This structure fits well with the action-platforming gameplay because it mirrors the development of the player’s skills and allows for exploration of the game world.
This paragraph is where I get in to some spoiler-y territory. You have been warned. Thematically, the game deals with ideas about technology, heroism and sacrifice. The world of Light Fall is Numbra – a continent with eternal night that is nevertheless the home of both animal and civilized life. The Kamloops – a peaceful people – have settled on this land to escape their warring neighbors, but now the powers they ran from are catching up and using their technology to transform Numbra. It is telling that almost all the hazards in the game are crystal structures constructed by these invaders – not the animal life of Numbra itself. It is clear that the technological advances are not all positive. This idea is complicated by Luxanna – a goddess of nature – and her choice to side with the invaders. Perhaps the good/bad dichotomy of technology is not as clear cut as it first seemed.
In addition to the technological quandaries, Light Fall is interested in what it means to be a hero and what it takes to stand up against evil. This is present both in the main story of the game, and the side story of Stryx – the game’s narrator and wise owl. Stryx makes ample references to his previous student, who chose to sacrifice herself and arguably her people to save the forest. It is clear that he struggles to come to terms with his apprentice’s choices, but in the end he learns from her and makes a sacrifice of his own.
In terms of presentation, Light Fall can not be said to be a fan of the “show don’t tell” method. Although the environments are beautiful and often include information about the world or its inhabitants, this is usually coupled with the narrative voice of Stryx explaining what you see. Additionally collectibles provide the player with more background info, this time in the form of long historical texts. I can’t help but think the game would have been better served by a more minimalist approach to storytelling, but the themes and plot structure are definitely a solid and engaging base.
It is clear that Light Fall takes some influence from other great indie platformers in the vein of Ori and the Blind Forest or perhaps Playdead’s LIMBO. The player character is a small, very dynamic creature with large eyes and the layered, painterly backgrounds are beautiful.
There is a clear delineation between areas of the world both in terms of shapes and colors, but it manages to seem coherent all the same. Both character and background animations are excellent.
The one area that is a bit lacking is the cutscenes between chapters. While the colors and art direction is still gorgeous, a lack of animations does make it seem a bit stiff.
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Images from Bishop Games’ Press Kit
As an action platformer, Light Fall has all the usual ingredients. There is sprinting, jumping and wall-jumping as one would expect but with one major caveat: the Shadow Core. The shadow core is a stand in for double-jumps, air-dashes, attacks and even a shield. By materializing the core underneath your feet or moving it around you can jump several times higher than usual, cross large chasms or block incoming missiles. The core is also used to activate certain puzzles and as such is the major gameplay element of Light Fall.
You might expect that allowing the player to put a cube underneath them at all times would make platforming challenges pretty easy and you’d be right. The solution to this is time pressure. The world moves and crumbles around you and keeping momentum – or stopping at the right time – is a key skill. By utilizing movement and speed, Bishop Games have managed to keep the platforming fun and challenging and make the Shadow Core an important part of a fluid movement system.
This might also be the place to tell you that Light Fall is a pretty difficult game. I am no expert of platforming games, but I am very glad there is no counter on my deaths – because there were a lot. The one choice compounding this difficulty is the distance between checkpoints, especially in difficult sections. Racing through the same five or six screens only to die on the one actually difficult jump over and over is never a good feeling. But if you’re up for a difficult, but fluid platforming challenge with some interesting ideas Light Fall might be for you.
The controls of Light Fall are responsive and smooth in most cases. The interface is relatively minimal requiring only a handful of buttons. An important thing to note is that a gamepad is highly recommended. When it comes to tight movement and analog speed controls, it is a huge advantage to have the analogue stick of a controller.
While there are lots of collectibles in Light Fall, that alone does not make for good replay value. By exploring every nook and cranny there are little yellow triangles to be found, that when transported to a nearby savepoint reveal the history of Numbra. Additionally there are villagers to be freed from well hidden crystal prisons, so there is definitely reason to explore the world several times over.
However, if exploring seems less interesting than fast paced platforming action there is also a speedrun mode that allows replays of specific sections with a timer and online leaderboards. Certainly there is reason to spend some time with Light Fall no matter which part of platforming appeals to you.
Replay Value 7
Light Fall is an excellent action platformer with gorgeous art direction that is definitely worth it for fans of indie games, adventures or tricky platforming.
The story, while somewhat clumsily told, is thematically engaging and worth seeing through and the gameplay jams well with it.
Overall, I can absolutely recommend Light Fall.
User Review( votes)
- Beautiful art
- Tight controls
- Challenging platforming
- Engaging themes
- A bit of clumsy narration
- Far between checkpoints sometimes