Lightmatter Review - Out Of The Shadows And Into The Light

9
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Puzzle
2020-01-15
Lightmatter
Lightmatter Steam

Lightmatter is a breath of fresh air in the world of puzzle games, a genre that gets constantly overshadowed by major AAA titles. Developed by Tunnel Vision Games, Lightmatter surely draws inspiration from acclaimed puzzle games like Portal and Portal 2. However, instead of creating portals to find escape routes, in Lightmatter you play with light and shadows to pave your path across levels. 

Lightmatter_Screenshot_5
Lightmatter_Screenshot_5 Photo: Lightmatter

While being an incredible puzzle game, Lightmatter also tells a beautiful story and tops it all off with incredible graphics. At first glance, one might think of Lightmatter as a rip-off of the Portal games, but after playing it for a while, I realized how refreshing the experience was. Lightmatter manages to scratch the itch that many puzzle gamers are longing for.

Gameplay

Lightmatter is a first-person puzzle-solving game that requires players to manage light and shadows to create paths. The game can be played using only a few inputs. The controls include a “use”, “jump”, “crouch”, and four-movement keys. In terms of accessibility, Lightmatter can be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences without getting confused with controls. 

Lightmatter_Screenshot_2
Lightmatter_Screenshot_2 Photo: Lightmatter

The initial levels are fairly easy to solve and help players develop a feel for the way Lightmatter approaches puzzles. The first 30 minutes or so might seem like you're speedrunning through multiple levels, but soon the puzzles get challenging. I found myself stopping and calculating my moves well in advance after the initial puzzles.

What I found interesting in Lightmatter is that it manages to create some really unique puzzles only using light and shadows. At first, tinkering around with in-game lampstands might seem like child’s play, but Lightmatter quickly raised the difficulty curve as soon as I felt that I had learned the mechanics.

Along with illuminating the path ahead, players will also come across some platforming that adds a touch of adventure to the puzzler. The platforming only intensifies as you reach the end of the game.

In terms of difficulty, although Lightmatter doesn’t give you any hints to solve puzzles, it does offer infinite respawns and very close checkpoints. I found myself being stuck on a couple of levels for a fair amount of time, but once I found the solution to the puzzles, I was able to solve future puzzles without any issues.

Graphics

Lightmatter_Screenshot_3
Lightmatter_Screenshot_3 Photo: Lightmatter

Lightmatter is presented in a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing muted cel-shaded design that adds drama to the atmosphere. This color palette allows players to distinguish between lights and shadows easily. The muted colors also allowed the developers to add bright pops that help guide players to items, clues, and objectives.

Although the game looks like it should run without any hassle, it does suffer from frame drops every now and then on the highest settings. However, you can make the game smoother by adjusting a few options in the graphics menu. 

Along with the framerate drops, there were a few other technical anomalies that I encountered during my playthrough. The game crashed at least five times in my three hours with Lightmatter, and I also encountered a weird bug that caused illuminated areas to remain dark. However, restarting the level easily fixed the bug.

Sound Design

Even though I loved the sound design in Lightmatter, it sometimes spooked me out in certain locations. Although this could definitely be attributed to my ‘easy to get spooked’ nature. Nonetheless, the music in the game fits in perfectly with the atmosphere and narration.

Plot

The story of Lightmatter unfolds as you successfully solve puzzles and move to new levels. However, it can be quite confusing understanding the narration. This is because the story is not revealed in chronological order. In my attempt to avoid spoiling the story, I’ll just state the backstory of Lightmatter, so that you have a good grip when jumping into this puzzler. 

A majority of Lightmatter’s story occurs before you start playing the game. Two brothers, Virgil and Arthur, discover an interesting crystal in a mountain cave and Virgil soon realizes the crystal’s immense potential. Virgil and Arthur join forces to set up a laboratory within the same mountain, where Lightmatter is established.

Lightmatter_Screenshot_4
Lightmatter_Screenshot_4 Photo: Lightmatter

Soon it was discovered that using this crystal is not completely safe and employees working at the establishment began experiencing hair loss. To prevent this, Virgil tries installing a mineral decontaminator. 

Virgil, being an insane scientist, decides to break the laws of physics by increasing the energy output of the crystal. Virgil and Arthur soon learn that the crystal is getting additional energy from unknown sources and soon it is discovered that shadows are killing people. All the organisms that shadows kill get morphed into energy and transmitted to the crystal. 

Arthur soon discovers Virgil’s evil goals that he wants to achieve. Arthur is murdered by Virgil and his security manager, James. While all of these events are taking place, Ellen, an employee of Lightmatter Technologies tries overloading the crystal, causing deadly shadows to emerge. This is when you drop into the game.

Verdict

If you love the Portal games, Lightmatter will easily resonate with you. With clever puzzles to solve, beautiful art and sound design to admire, and a great story to keep you gripped, Lightmatter will take you on a memorable journey. Aside from a few bugs and crashes, I really enjoyed my time with the game. If you're an avid puzzle gamer, you will not only enjoy solving the light and shadow puzzles of Lightmatter, you’ll also easily fall in love with many other elements of the game. In terms of replayability, I discovered that the game has an alternate ending, which I plan on going back and experiencing some time soon. 

REVIEW SUMMARY
Lightmatter
9
Lightmatter Review - A Light And Shadow Puzzle Game
Lightmatter is a breath of fresh air to the easily forgettable puzzle genre. The game is an impressive package of well-crafted puzzles, gorgeous art style, and incredible sound design. Lightmatter requires players to forge their paths by illuminating dark areas using strategic use of lights and avoiding the deadly shadows.
  • Well-crafted, clever puzzles.
  • No death penalty.
  • Great story and narration
  • Impressive graphics and art style.
  • Great music and sound design.
  • Speedrun stats.
  • Bugs and crashes.
  • Short game length (Only 34 levels).
  • Random frame drops at Very High settings.
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