For many, the scariest things are not monsters in the closet or hiding under the bed. The real horrors come from one’s past and the personifications raising in their own head. Sometimes hordes of creatures and beasts are far less frightening then what comes to one when they are left alone. These are the types of horrors tackled in the new psychological adventure The Town of Light. First released just over a year ago on PC, the twisted tale from LKA finally comes to consoles.
REAL HORROR DONE TASTEFULLY
It is nothing new for a video game to tackle more controversial or sensitive material, but the problem tends to be in the tactfulness of doing so. The Town of Light faces the realities of psychological distress and mental illness from a life time of trauma. The imagery and stories portrayed in the game can be unsettling for many, so bare this in mind before jumping inti the game. If psychological distress, sexual assault, abortion, homosexuality, and physical torment are stressors for you, tread lightly in The Town of Light. And all of this is tastefully woven into a narrative of only four or so hours.
Taking place in the abandoned Ospedale Psichatrico di Colterra psychiatric hospital in Tuscany, The Town of Light slowly unfolds the life story of Renee. From her abusive past to her incarceration in the psychiatric hospital, and through the struggles she endured once there, the game lays out the tragic life of Renee. Occasionally it feels as if too much is being forced into a scene and the pacing is a little off, but overall the narrative is gripping and compelling to say the least.
IN THE WORLD OF LOST AND BROKEN
Returning to the Ospedale Psichatrico di Colterra psychiatric hospital, Renee explores its abandoned halls alone, except for occasionally with Charlotte, and relives her time there through flashbacks. Through this style, the game uses stark contrasts in imagery to further push the idea of mental instability. While active in the present day, the world around you is hauntingly beautiful and expertly rendered. Given the horrid past, the asylum is still brightly colored and lit with the exception of a few isolated corridors.
This goes against the harsh, hand drawn images of the flashbacks. Upon triggering a cut scene into the history of Renee, the art direction turns sharply. Suddenly, the brightly lit world transforms into crudely drawn images depicting the horrors of her past. Dark tones coated in straight lines with harsh corners expose the freneticism of harsh memories. During some of these flashbacks, with other people around, they take on very blank almost mannequin like features. On the surface, this may seem like a cheap way to streamline development, but it only adds to the objectification of the people in these wards.
MECHANICS OVER YOUR OWN TERRORS
A completionist playthrough of the game should take around four hours. That is, if you take the time to hunt for every individual memory and item. If you are more of a gamer that just likes the basic playthrough of the narrative, the game should only take around three hours. Even with the game being this relatively short, there are still a few sections that could be trimmed a little. Bear in mind that The Town of Light is effectively a walking-simulator with a few puzzles and cut scenes. Some of these scenes feel like they drag along a bit, trying to shoehorn a little too much into what should be brief moments.
The gameplay for The Town of Light is minimalistic enough, but it still has its hiccups nonetheless. Though you are predominantly moving from one location to the next following little, riddle-like clues, cueing up the next cut scene, occasionally you have to move items as well. From time to time these items will interfere with your general movement or fluid play. On more than one occasion, the intractables were placed in a way that hindered their availability and required a soft restart of the level to proceed.
There are a few bugs or glitches that, though not game breaking, cause extreme annoyance. The worst for this came in the form of picking up and textbook at the very start of the game. Upon my first entrance to the asylum, I picked up a book and flipped through it purely out of curiosity. Bear in mind that it had nothing to do with game at all. Well, the game would not let me put this particular book back down until I picked up another item and replaced it. From there, for the following three and a half hours of gameplay, anytime that an item was collected and viewed, the textbook would be there, cluttering the background. These small glitches are annoying, but not infuriating.
The Town of Light is in no way a traditional horror game. It is more like an interactive film tackling some of the serious subject material. Though some of the material can be tough for a variety of players and viewers, the information portrayed is an important take on mental illness that is often disregarded from mainstream media. Told through flashbacks to the traumas of Renee, the game tells more if the real-life horrors many people face. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, The Town of Light is still a gripping narrative worthy of a playthrough or two from any fan of psychological suspense and serious games. Just make sure not to forget Charlotte.