Light Fall Review – PC
+ Simple elegant art design
+ Fantastic soundtrack
+ Precise controls
+ Great design concept
+ Arcade replayability
- Fairly short experience if you don't care about speedruns and leaderboards
Light Fall is the news indie platformer to hit the Steam store that continues to evolve on the silhouette artistic style first seen in Limbo. Over the years and through countless games since we have seen this concept evolve from a purely black and white experience to more colorful expressions, but always with a predominate amount of darkness dominating the foreground and animated characters of the game. Light Fall doesn’t stray far from that visionary formula as you take on the role of this quirky little shadow character who looks heavily inspired by Ori and the Blind Forest. Along with your owl guide, Stryx, you’ll get to explore the Forgotten World of Numbra, a land cast in eternal night, as you overcome environmental obstacles and try to save the land…you know; standard platforming stuff.
Every game has to have a hook and in Light Fall that hook is the Shadow Core, this magical box that you can summon to aid in your navigation of the levels as well as solving many of the environmental puzzles. The Shadow Core allows you to summon a box beneath your feet at the press of a button, essentially creating your own platform or series of platforms to reach areas normally out of reach. When one box appears the previous one vanishes, so with rhythmic taps of the jump and box-spawn buttons you can easily make your way vertically or horizontally through open air spaces. Additionally, you can spawn a box and freely move it about the level creating a platform in advance or use the Shadow Core to block deadly light beams.
What impressed me most about this entire system was the precision of the controls. I was using an Xbox controller and highly recommend this over a keyboard. The jumping was so precise with no over-step momentum that would carry you off the edge of the Shadow Core. It wasn’t sticky; just precise. This allows you to move quickly and confidently, even while running and jumping great distances, knowing that if you hit the Shadow Core button on your downward trajectory you’ll stick the landing. One place where the game does get “sticky” is with your ability to stick to the walls and sides of objects. This allows you to rapidly jump-climb vertical surfaces to reach new areas.
While parts of Light Fall are played at a slow methodical pace there are numerous sections where you are under intense pressure as caverns collapse, columns disintegrate, or a tsunami chases you through the level. This is where mastery of the running and jumping to precisely timed Shadow Core boxes comes into play, along with sticky jumps to existing parts of the level. The mix of exploratory adventure and intense escapes if perfectly balanced and guaranteed to keep things fresh.
Clocking in at around 5-7 hours, Light Fall is a good length for a budget platformer. There are plenty of secrets, shortcuts, and Easter Eggs scattered about that will take some extra time to find and then you have the speedrun mode with leaderboards that can prove very addicting for perfectionist players. You’ll want to map those shortcuts and plan your best route through the level for the fastest times.
The visuals for Light Fall are simply stunning. Each level picks a primary palette then uses every gradient shade of that color to create these simple yet elegantly designed scrolling backgrounds juxtaposed against a shadowy foreground and contrasting characters. While the game doesn’t appear to have any native HDR support it looks fantastic on my Sony 4K screen and runs smoothly at 4K resolution on my 1080ti card. Given the nature of the art style though, this game will look just as pretty at 1080p on just about any system that meets the specs.
Complementing these visuals is a soundtrack that is just as enchanting and sold separately if you want to enjoy outside the game. The score provides soothing ambience and uplifting melodies to enhance every moment of the game then kicks in for those action moments with exhilarating momentum. The rest of the game is fairly quiet with minimal sound effects and environmental sounds and the crackly voice of Stryx the owl offering advice or providing amusing commentary.
Sure, there are dozens of games that look like Light Fall, but not a single one of them plays like Light Fall. The entire Shadow Core concept and the ability to essentially create your own path through the world guarantee that no two trips through the game will be the same. It also provides a great since of satisfaction when you find a secret area or traverse a puzzle knowing that you simply weren’t following a pre-designed path, and that was the best part of Light Fall; the fun I had while playing it and the satisfaction when it was over. And for those with a competitive streak, the Speedrun Competition should keep you playing long after the core game is complete.