You awake to find yourself alone in an abandoned lab. Debris and evidence of a serious accident having just taken place. Overhead the crackling sound of speakers come on and a voice informs you that they will lead you to safety if you follow directions. What follows is an expanding tale of corporate sabotage and betrayal. If that wasn’t enough, something is causing shadows to swallow up and destroy all living organic matter. Using your wits and any light source available to you, you have to find your way out and back into the safety of the daylight.
Lightmatter borrows heavily from the flow and structure of Valve’s dormant franchise, Portal, but their unique and clever light-based puzzles set itself apart and make this a game worth playing.
As a nameless individual, you find yourself caught up in the aftermath when the public reveal of a new form of energy, “lightmatter,” goes wrong. Everyone has been evacuated. Everybody but you, that is. Thankfully, Virgil, the company’s CEO, voiced by David Bateson or Hitman’s Agent 47 as you may know him as, is willing to help guide you to safety. David’s performance as Virgil is much more of a borderline eccentric scientist, which is a far cry from the stoic monotone Agent 47 that he is known for.
There’s a crucial problem here though. Any and all shadows you touch will instantly kill you. You respawn quickly and the checkpoints are numerous so this never feels like too much of an issue. This premise of staying in the light and out of the shadow is what drives the puzzles in Lightmatter.
Beginning with just simple lamps that shine in a single direction, the complexity of the puzzles will increase over the 38 levels. Solutions require you to use additional mechanics and tools, in order to reach the end. Towards the end of the game, you will have to contend with connecting beams of light while having the beam pass over switches to open doors that let you access a lamp, and etc. They can get pretty complex, but luckily never too complex that they would leave you feeling overly frustrated. A couple of times I had to shut the game down and come back to it, but I always figured it after coming back to the puzzle.
Developer Tunnel Vision Games have done a superb job of combining a narrative that continues to feed the player new insights into the sequence of events that led to the beginning of the game. With each new tape player I found, I was excited to find out more about what was going on that set up the events of the game. Virgil’s descent into paranoia and suspicion was particularly powerful to witness. David Bateson does a fantastic job in the role, reflecting these changes in his character’s mental state in his approach to the character.
Tunnel Vision Games clearly hopes Lightmatter has legs throughout 2020. There’s a specific tag for upcoming content that could potentially expand on the solid foundations already here. I’d love to see the addition of different color lights or having to split lights to solve the puzzles.
While people will clearly notice the similarities between this and Valve’s first-person puzzler, Lightmatter still sets itself apart. The developers have crafted puzzles, that while challenging, are not overly so. A few of them caused me to take a break and come back to it, but I was always able to figure out the solution.
Come December, I think that Lightmatter will still be one of my stand out surprises from 2020, that I think everyone should try.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 PRO system with a review code provided by PR.