We all have our certain fears. Whether you don’t like heights or the darkness is just something that frightens you, they affect all of us. However, you don’t have to be in the dark or really high up all the time unless you want to. Well what if you couldn’t control your greatest fears and lived in a constant state of agony with the realization that you are always afraid. Unfortunately, that how most mental patients feel. Living in a world where everything is out to get them and there is no sanctum or peace to be found. Mental health issues are a real threat and they are not something that should be toyed with. Sadly, the early days of mental health institutes did not understand the pain that was going on inside these patients’ heads and only made them worse.
The Town of Light is a first-person psychological adventures title developed by LKA.it and published by Wired Productions. The game tells the story of Renee, a 16-year-old girl, placed in a mental institution in Italy after her mental illness created problems with keeping her at home. The year is 1938 and the prowess of the health industry and more importantly, the mental health aspect is a new ideal and extremely inexperienced. Renee is plucked from her home after a slew of incidents and placed in a world of hurt and despair where all her fears come true. She lives in a realm of anguish and feels like there is not a friend in sight and believes that everyone is out to get her. You are now living in Renee’s worst nightmare and it is your job to unravel the truth.
When it comes to the gameplay mechanics of Town of Light, it boils down to the game being a walking simulator in its truest sense. You start at the front gate of an old, dilapidated mental health institution in what seems like present day. Your main objective is to get inside the building a figure out what happened to you during your stay at this hospital. Traversing long, dark hallways covered in creepy murals and going through broken rooms just to uncover some information and to finally settle yourself. This game is about exploration and finding extra bits of papers or mementos to add to the story.
There are also dialogue options similar to the style presented in most of the TellTale games that will lead to different storylines. For a majority of the game your choices don’t have any effect, but there are two major branching points where the decision will change the outcome of the game entirely. In total, there are four different endings to the game, but you can’t just load up the final chapter and pick one thing over another. The game has a meter that is not really discussed at all throughout the game that displays whether or not your ideas towards what happened to yourself would have isolated you from the group or made you one of them. This is what leads to the four different endings. The choices are not something easy either like ‘I want to be part of the group’ or ‘I don’t want to be part of the group’. The choices rely on whether or not that you cause Renee to believe that she is sick and her mental illness is the reason she sees this hospital as a devious place of residence. Or if you have her believe that nothing is actually wrong with her. The story deviates quite a bit and it makes for a group way to have replayability in a game genre that usually lends its self to a one-and-done kind of playstyle.
The visuals and soundtrack of a game are usually hit-or-miss for me, especially with the soundtracks, and a developer needs to do a great job on both to achieve an amazing experience. This is one of those time where the developers went above and beyond the call of duty when designing the world that their game took place in. The mental institution is not a huge building and the surrounding areas do not encompass a huge amount of interactable items, but the precision and detail put in the visuals of Town of Light were spectacular. Just stepping into the hospital gave off an aura of dismay without presenting any type of scare. The atmosphere was just overall creepy, to begin with. Then they added in the dark corridors lined with weird monster pictures and murals that reminded me of something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. This is one of the games where the visuals made me feel a way that was other than amazed. Trust me, I have played games where the visuals are so jaw-droppingly beautiful that I couldn’t compliment them enough and this game strives to do that as well. However, it is few and far in between when a game not only provides an appealing sight for the eyes but gives off a vibe that makes you feel like you are actually standing there. The soundtrack pairs perfectly with the tone of the visuals as it just heightens the fear factor of the experience. The creeks and moans of the old building provide a feeling that something might be there waiting in the corner for you, while the actual soundtrack is implemented to get your blood pumping and keep you on your toes. The overall ambiance given off by this game is just mysterious and unnerving and you would not find me signing up to stay a night in that place.
I have done reviews of walking simulators before, like Dear Esther and Virginia, and I feel that Town of Light stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Both of those titles were an amazing experience and Town of Light was no different. It is hard to compare titles like this as they all bring such a unique experience to the table, but if I had to compare it to anything, it would be Dear Esther. They are both extremely similar in the sense that you are dropped off at some place and then must traverse the environment learning the story as it is told by the protagonist, the narrator. However, what I feel makes this title stand on its own is the amount of replayability that was not available in the others. I would fully recommend that anyone a fan of the two titles that I previously mentioned to check this game out. It is a phenomenal experience that explores the horrors of mental illness. And a word of warning before I go: this game is rated Mature and is quite adult compared to Dear Esther. It contains various scenes of nudity and intense violence, so this wouldn’t be a game to experience with the little ones.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 9/10
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