Light Fall starts out looking a lot like Limbo, and that is not a bad thing. Several key differences take root early on and begin to quickly sprout into a completely different experience that has some real promise. The demo I played was only an early Alpha for PAX South, and now I’m drooling to see the finished product. agent86ix and I liked it so much we awarded it Runner Up for the Best Platformer of PAX South – so it is definitely a game worth checking out.
One of the key mechanics of Light Fall is the Shadow Core. The Shadow Core is a box shaped artifact that you spawn and control at will to help with platforming or solving puzzles. Even after playing just a few minutes, I was impressed by how quickly it felt natural to make leaps of faith over deadly pits – emboldened by the fact that I could spawn of my own private platform that would save me in the nick of time. Why hasn’t someone thought of this sooner? Bishop also mentioned in a post on the TIG forums that the Shadow Core is eventually wielded in more advanced ways like disarming traps and blocking projectiles. I bet it makes a pretty rad table for picnicking too.
The Crotchety Narrator
The Shadow Core mechanics of Light Fall would be pretty damn cool just by themselves, but I was actually even more impressed by the narrative elements and graphical style. By the end of the demo I was hungry to know more and Ben from Bishop Games was kind enough to fill in some of the blanks for me (which I’ll share… because I’m a giver).
Light Fall starts with a short cut scene explained by a crotchety owl named Stryx. Ben informed me that Stryx is actually a Night Owl, a very old resident of the dark, desolate, and generally unfriendly world known as Numbra. Stryx is the last of an owl Order and I can imagine that in a shadow world where darkness reigns, Owl Orders are legit. During the opening scene Stryx explains how a race known as the Kamloops (among them our Shadow Core wielding boy hero) migrates to Numbra.
As you progress through the game Stryx is a narrating observer that isn’t afraid to announce his irritation or dissatisfaction. The voice acting is excellent, and like Bastion or Thomas Was Alone the narration really draws you into the plot of the game. I can be pretty daft when it comes to subtle plot motifs and metaphors, so I really appreciate an interesting background character that’s kind enough to occasionally spell it out for me.
One of the aspects of Limbo that was always rather unapologetic was the lack of agility on the part of your anonymous boy hero. He could merely walk briskly and his jumping skills were squarely at the meh end of the scale. That was all in keeping with the theme of the game, but after a while sometimes you wanted to yell to him “dude, there is a giant freaking spider chasing you…. run faster!” In Light Fall, you have no such limitation, and in fact I found myself occasionally having to back down the throttle on my dark sprites ludicrous speed running ability… the little dude can really move. There were parts in the demo I played over and over just for that feeling of speed when I executed all of the jumps and parkour perfectly. I’d liken it to the child of Limbo and Meatboy, with a dash of Bit Trip Runner. It seems that in most cases moving at this fast pace is optional, but in one case a “cave in” event forces the player to crank it up. Ben mentioned that many other “events” like this are planned, as well as boss battles in each of the regions of Numbra – so it sounds like there are some great challenges in store.
Light Fall includes some great new ideas and at the same time has a familiar feel to some of my favorite indie platformers. The gameplay, narration, and visual style are already impressive – and on this trajectory I fully expect the game to turn heads when the final version is available. Keep your eyes on this game and this developer – I believe they’ll both be ones to watch.