Thursday, April 26

Review: Light Fall [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When trying to craft a masterful platforming experience probably the most crucial element is the flow of things. While the game can certainly be challenging it is essential that the movement is nailed, making covering ground and making crazy things happen all at once feel “right”. One of the most impressive-looking games shown in the last Nindie Showcase Direct was the gorgeous Light Fall, with platforming that looked incredibly tough but seemed to have a fluidity of movement. Having played through the final game the great news is that when you’re in your groove and moving it absolutely feels great, if anything it’s near the end where the game takes a bit of a turn and loses some ground.

First and foremost Light Fall’s greatest strength is its flow of movement. Once you get into a run your jumps have a great feel, as does you ability to climb walls. What sets the game apart, though, is introduced early and that’s your ability to make use of what are called Shadow Cores. You’re able to summon them with ease, but you do have limits. Once you have used 4 of them you won’t be able to create any more until you touch the ground. This limitation is put to clever use early on and will force you to be smart and sometimes a bit inventive to get yourself into difficulty spots. Over the course of the game you’ll need to learn new tricks and techniques with them, first using them as a tool to turn switches and then later as a moving shield to protect you from lasers.

The structure of the main game is a bit interesting as you can simply move along the main path or you can let yourself get diverted onto challenges that sit at your periphery. In general whenever you see a spot where your gamer sense starts to tingle you can count on there being a hidden area. The challenge of most of these spaces is they they’ll give you a crystal that you can use to unlock more of the game’s lore, but in order to claim them you won’t just need to get to them, you’ll need to be able to get them back to the nearest checkpoint. This is the first way the game challenges you to work a little harder but I’d say even early on some of the challenges are so much more advanced than where your skills would typically be at that point that it seems to be assumed you’ll return for them rather than getting them the first time through.

That leads into what I’d say is my main criticism of the game, that it makes some peculiar difficulty choices at the wrong times and that may make people appreciate the game less than they could. In particular the last Act of the game feels like it strays a bit too far from the very formula that, to that point, generally felt great. The key changes are the introduction of spaces that remove your powers, those same things you’d essentially come to rely on to that point in the game, and the almost cruel spacing of checkpoints. In particular there’s one late section where, to that point, there easily would have been 2 checkpoints after you’ve gotten through a particularly demanding area. The only effect this has is to prolong the game experience for the wrong reason, forcing you to repeatedly conquer a challenge you’ve figured out, chewing up minutes or possibly hours on doing the same things over and over again. The more challenging offshoots for lore somewhat share this problem with the fact that getting to them can be hard enough but then you need to complete the normal challenge as well without dying to not lose the crystal. The effect of this strategy is that I anticipate many people will simply learn to skip those segments, complete the game, and then possibly not decide to return, missing out on some clever sequences and level designs simply because of the way the game is structured.

When Light Fall is firing on all cylinders it feels absolutely incredible, and it’s easy to see where it will be terrific for people looking to get their speedrunning put to the test. The ramping up of challenge from stage to stage feels just about right and the boss battles force you to put all you’ve learned to good use. I think it’s Act 4 and the pretty abrupt change in style that will divide people, with some people undoubtedly liking the sudden stepping up of challenge and others throwing up their hands at the rug being pulled out from under them. The shame is there are some great challenges to be had off the beaten path but the game seems intent on punishing you for checking them out without offering a sufficient reward in return. Light Fall has quite a lot working for it, it just feels like it gets in the way of its own success before the story is completed.

Score: 8

  • Has an incredibly attractive art style
  • When it is clicking and flowing it feels great
  • Some inventive level design challenges both your mind and reflexes through the majority of the game
  • A game that feels almost made for speedrunning

  • Too many of its challenge areas use far too much “stick” without offering enough “carrot” to be worthwhile
  • Act 4 feels like it may have originally had checkpoints in key spots that were removed to make it “harder”
  • When the game sometimes pulls out a bit more its possible people who play exclusively in handheld mode may find it tougher to see clearly at times