Town of Light — Review
The summer never has too many games coming out, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see a few decent game slip out anyway. Today we will be focusing on a full review of The Town of Light which is a horror game released in July. The game does a great job at some things while falling flat in others. Below we will discuss the victories and faults of the game. We will also include a spoiler section that goes over major points of the game I found to be lacking for those who decide they might not want to play it after all.
The game takes place from the perspective of a young girl named Renee. The girl is wandering through a mental asylum in order to retrace her steps from her time there. She seems to be suffering from memory loss and is trying to piece her life back together. Renee shows signs of having several mental diseases such as possible schizophrenia as soon as the game opens. The whole story will take place on the grounds of the asylum with almost no story taking place outside of the grounds.
The way you advance the story is simple you wander from room to room following Renee’s instructions. Each new area you visit unlocks a few of her memories. The game also features some decision making choices that will affect the storyline you unlock. The game does have several adult themes in it making it completely unsuitable for children. The themes range from sexually explicit content to uncomfortable topics such as abortion. The game also likes to show the darker side of old mental health treatment that may bother those who suffer from any type of mental disorder.
The gameplay for this game is really slow paced making the game take much longer than it could if you could run. To its credit, however, the map is not massive so the slow walking isn’t too much of a pain. There aren’t too many controls out of pressing a button to interact with a certain object and basically walking from objective to objective to unlock more of the story. This being said everything does run mostly smooth other than in the beginning when you have to steer a wheelchair that can easily get stuck.
The music in the game is rather nice and the setting is planned out pretty well for a low budget game. I found a lot of the scenery to very portrait-esque. The team did a great job at creating the asylum grounds without trying to throw in extra elements that would have oversaturated the horror element. Overall, I think the setting the gameplay was put in is one of the best parts of this game. The things you can interact with are all interesting when they pop up and nothing feels out of place in the environment around you. That being said make sure you memorize the help button to get hints as to where to go next so you want to end up wandering aimlessly.
The game does a really good job at creating ambiance, but it doesn’t go much farther than that. In all honesty, this is one of those games that you will scare yourself with before it will actually scare you. The game doesn’t use jump scares or anything of the like to catch you off guard and the story relies on you to have knowledge of some of the events going on in order for the horror elements to have their full effect. This can leave some younger players feeling left out as some of the game features college level details.
That being said psychological horror isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that with this type of horror it only really works with certain people. I feel like this game could relate to a lot of people if they’re willing to put in a little bit of research of basic old medicine used to treat mental illness. For those who have no interest and haven’t come across the basic on their own, the game may fall completely flat in its horror elements. This means that the ambiance won’t be enough to keep most gamers attached to the game.
The game also switches what horror element it wants to use. At first, it seems to be schizophrenia and talking to things that don’t really exist. Then it goes for themes of sexual abuse and generally uncomfortable topics. Next, it tries to make the world feel kind of trippy by distorting things. All in all the elements don’t really mix together that well leaving most players confused. This combined with the fact the game feels like it’s being drug out kills the mood pretty easily.
My Issues With The Game
I had several issues with the game in several different departments. While the game is an interesting playthrough and rather cheap it left a lot to be desired. When I initially bought it I was expecting a little bit more of a twisted view of reality. What I got was a slow paced walk around a crumbling building where I constantly was looking for more than what was actually put into the game. This left me often feeling unsatisfied with each new story element I found since everything seemed to only scratch the service.
One of the biggest issues I had was how the story would dip into a subject then just throw it out the window. One good example of this is when you find out Renee was pregnant at some point in the ward. They start to go into details alluding to her being raped and then just throw out that she had an abortion. Renee reacts to this in a lackluster way making the whole scene feel kind of lost. I know that she has mental issues, but her reaction to the existence and sudden none existence to her child just doesn’t feel right. This gets lost even more since you see she has an addictive personality to pretty much anything she can have a closeness to at the beginning.
The next issue is the fact that they start to explore a lesbian relationship. Then they kind of just say it was all in her head. Renee convinced it wasn’t, then finds proof that her relationship with the girl did exist. The proof she finds however kind or proves it didn’t at the same time. This is confusing to the player because we get pretty much no straight answer out of the game and the back and forth is fine at first but turns into an irritating story flaw soon after.
It kind of just felt like the game was trying to rely on sensitive subjects for shock value at times. I didn’t really feel like there was any legitimate emotion behind the things going on from the main character. There also was little to no explanation to what happened at the end of the game and the last scene you’re forced to watch is a lobotomy that is just kind of uncomfortable. There are multiple paths that reveal information differently depending on what you choose, but you will pretty much need a guide to pick the perfect one since the answers aren’t straightforward.
Another huge problem I had with the game is the fact that it built up the tension for literally nothing. For the first hour of the game, the ambiance was great. I legitly felt like something freaky could happen at any moment and there was a great distortion scene that happens when you walk down a hallway early on. This made me really excited to continue onward. As I did though I just kept losing the edge the game wanted me to have. I just couldn’t really feel tense but at a few parts of it and that kind of made me impartial to the events.
Next, the game doesn’t exactly do so well with guiding you. They tell you to go to locations and don’t do a good job of letting you know where they are at. At some points, it felt like I was playing a puzzle games even though all I had to do was walk from place to place. This left me feeling frustrated with the game and broke up the experience it was trying to give me. The ending of the game also drags itself out quite a bit. Luckily, however, it is interesting up until you notice you’re not really sure what all is going on.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend picking up this game anytime soon unless you want to do a Halloween game marathon or something of that nature. The game won’t attach to most people and can easily lose its ambiance. For people who do like more artsy games, you may be a little bit more drawn to this for most players but still don’t expect to be blown away. Highly recommend that any console gamers looking for a good horror-esque go for Outlast or Little Nightmares instead.