Lightmatter sounds and feels like many games. No, not Portal, but games trying to be Portal. You know the spiel, a humorous antagonist, puzzle rooms, and a pitch that probably can be summed up with “It’s like Portal but …” In this case, It’s like Portal but focused on Light instead of Portals.
Now many of these “portal clones” are of mixed quality. Most of them just seem to miss the whole point of what Portal does, such as Magrunner, a game I recently looked at didn’t like. Some games actually are quite enjoyable though still lacking that special spark, such as The Turning Test, and some games are just exceptional puzzle games, such as The Talos Principle.
Lightmatter is somewhere between the last two. The opening hours of Lightmatter have incredible puzzles that are perfectly paced. While Lightmatter won’t directly help you, the puzzles are laid out in such a way that players are limited in their interaction with the puzzles offering a handful of possible actions that the player can take.
Early puzzles are a bit easy to get players used to the rules of the world but there’s a solid run in the middle of Lightmatter wherever the puzzle feels both deep and yet intuitive once the player finds the solution. To just reach that point of a challenging but interesting puzzle is something many games fail to do once but Lightmatter seems to hit that sweet spot and stay there for a decent part of the game.
Sadly, Lightmatter can’t keep this up for the whole game. The third act changes elements of the puzzle, introducing a new object, and while there are great puzzles for that part of the game, it feels like many of the final puzzles are a bit too obvious, or have too few moving parts so there are only a few possible moves players will be able to do.
Still, the experience at the core of Lightmatter is one that most puzzle games lack, and it’s the reason why Lightmatter stands out as more than just an imitator of the formula.
Lightmatter’s story starts strong with the player waking up after what appears to be a failed experiment which created deadly shadows. There is a voice guiding you which comes from “Virgil” the owner of the facility as he explains what has gone on, and leads you through the facility, warning you of some of the hazards. He’s never directly shown, and it’s pretty clear that he’s part of the shadows that are dangerous to the player, but sadly nothing is done with this.
Instead, similar to the gameplay, in the third act, the game just becomes about shutting down the main facility. There are three major characters in the game and it feels like the game lacks a real purpose for any of them to be part of the story. Again the opening two acts here feel like they are building towards some reveal or a major story element that describes who you are, or what is going on, but alas nothing comes from it.
Lightmatter also contains tapes that have exposition on them, though these are all on the main path. The tapes reveal what happened, but nothing really comes to a satisfying conclusion. The three characters you are introduced to mostly exist because the game needed a story, but the story has very little to do with the gameplay or puzzles being solved.
It’s only a bigger let down since the characters had the potential for a meaningful final scene or confrontation, but instead, they end up simply being a distraction.
Overall, Lightmatter is a great attempt. It shows that the developer properly understands how to make a puzzle game and does enough clever things to make it clear they have the fundamentals of the genre down.
While Lightmatter only runs for about 4 hours, that’s a runtime without a lot of downtimes. It sounds short, but for a great puzzle game, brevity is far better than lingering on concepts that don’t deserve the focus, and I’d prefer a 4 hour game than a 10-hour game where most puzzles are just repetitions of the same topics.
The only real issue with Lightmatter is a problem of consistency. They can make great puzzles but couldn’t make a satisfyingv ending. Still, as a game, that’s a lot closer than many games in the puzzle genre, and I would recommend checking out Lightmatter. Also am going to keep an eye on the developer, Tunnel Vision Games because I think they’re on the cusp of something great, and Lightmatter shows they have the fundamentals of the genre down.
I give this the arbitrary
This is good, but it could be better. At the same time, if you are a fan of puzzle games, I highly recommend you check this one out, as it’s an excellent experience.
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