Developer: Tunnel Vision Games
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 01/16/2020
Price: £15.49 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Since 2007, video games have been attempting to recreate the success of Valve’s surprising Portal. It blended clever and humorous writing, excellent level design, and unique mechanics to become a near-instant classic. And also became memed to death. More than a decade later, Tunnel Vision Games is attempting to recapture that
magic scientific formula with Lightmatter.
Right away the similarities between the games make themselves apparent. You wake up in a locked room with a disembodied voice giving you orders. From there you make your way from room to room solving puzzles. I won’t go much further than that in terms of their similarities, to avoid spoiling too much of Lightmatter, but know that the lineage is extremely apparent while playing. Throughout the story, Aperture science is even mentioned by name, multiple times! The developers very clearly wanted players to know where they were drawing their inspiration from.
In terms of what sets the game apart from its inspiration, there are a few things. The story is more fleshed out and delivered more directly to the player. The disembodied voice of Virgil (voiced by David Bateson, best known for his work as Agent 47 in the Hitman games) gives you plenty of backstory on the lightmatter and photon particles that he has focused his research on. GLaDOS he is not, but Bateson does a great job of carrying the character and narrative forward. A lesser actor may have fumbled in the role, which would detract significantly from the game. In fact, if you think of Lightmatter as a spinoff to a Hitman game where you’re playing a target that Agent 47 has placed into increasingly ridiculous and dangerous science experiments, it becomes slightly more amusing.
Gameplay is simple. Avoid standing in a dark space to avoid being consumed by sentient shadows that consume living beings. Even the smallest sliver of shadow can consume you and have you eaten alive. Luckily the game has an incredibly generous checkpointing system and will set you back a couple of seconds. Basically, to the last location where you were in no danger at all. You quickly start encountering numerous tools you can use to keep shadows at bay, like lamps and line of sight laser beams that help to mitigate the presence of shadows. Somewhat annoyingly though, you can only rotate lamps on the X-axis and are unable to aim them up or down. The game is designed around this specific limitation, it just feels a little strange.
Speaking of the way levels are designed; the simple nature of the levels means solutions are easy to deduce after a few seconds looking around. This means that the game has very few, if any, “A-HA!” moments. You won’t be left scratching your head by any puzzles, but they also aren’t far too easy. Just at a dissatisfying middle ground. The game ends before it can really test you.
In the end, I found myself wholly underwhelmed by Lightmatter. The aesthetic and concept pulled me in, but the gameplay and puzzle design left me in the dark. This wouldn’t feel so disappointing if the developers didn’t constantly shove a big sign in your face going, “HEY! REMEMBER PORTAL?” The game also repeatedly relies on the same narrative device to draw itself out to the point of parody. Lightmatter claims to be a love letter to the first-person puzzle genre, but it doesn’t feel like it actually learned any lessons from those games and merely seeks to imitate a base structure without turning that love into something new and unique.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can try the free demo or purchase Lightmatter on Steam here.