Published on May 2nd, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
When I was a kid I remember going out and buying Ninja Gaiden for my Nintendo Entertainment System. Believing it to be the game that I had recently played in the arcade, I anxiously opened it up and inserted it into my NES. What I found was that the game resembled nothing like the co-op beat ‘em up game that I played in the arcade, but an incredibly difficult and masterfully fun platform game. While Light Fall does not have ninjas or throwing stars, it shares some of the insane difficulty and satisfaction that I remember fondly when playing Ninja Gaiden.
Light Fall is a 2D platformer by Bishop Games available on both the PC and Nintendo Switch. It puts you in control of a “boy” named Onyx on a journey through the magical world of Numbra. You have no memory of who you are, and you are accompanied by your new companion Stryx, the last of the great Night Owls. The two of you set off in an effort to remember your past and save the world from total devastation. Thankfully, along with your speed and your jumping ability you also have control of the mysterious Shadow Core, a device that serves many functions on your path to victory. One of these functions is it allows you to create platforms, which help Onyx reach higher vistas or save him from dropping to certain doom. The Shadow Core can also be used as a shield, blocking lasers and slime from killing Onyx, or it can also be used as an energy weapon to blow holes in massive trees or to destroy enemies.
Gameplay is all about speed and timing, utilizing your ability to run/jump with the use of the Shadow Core. As with most platformers, timing is key to avoiding spinning traps, or the massive fire attacks that will come your way. Speed is important as various levels will require you to continue moving if you plan to survive. It makes for a frantic, and sometimes frustrating experience as you run full speed, leaping from platform to platform, and in some cases, making leaps of faith hoping that where you land is safe, and not to your death. Onyx is a very frail being and any damage results in immediate death. Thankfully there is a checkpoint system, so at least you will not be starting over from the beginning. Unfortunately, I found the checkpoints to be rare at best which meant that there are some levels where you will have to experiment (and die…A LOT) in order to successfully reach the next checkpoint.
This is one area where I feel Light Fall definitely appeals more to serious platform gamers versus your typical casual gamer. There are two difficulties, Normal and Hard and from what I could gather the main difference between the two was that the Hard difficulty had additional obstructions in the levels. That’s not to say that Normal is easy and in fact, even in Normal difficulty there are levels I would describe as brutal. I’ll admit I’m not the King of Platformers, far from it, but there was one area in level one that I almost thought I’d never pass. This was literally in the first 30 minutes of gameplay and I easily spent another 30-45 minutes trying to get past it. I thought it was just me until I happened across a few YouTube videos showing others who experienced the same level of frustration (although not spending quite as much time as I did) with this particular area. After passing that spot, the game pace settled a bit, and I made significant progress until the next brutally frustrating obstacle appears. This ties me back to my Ninja Gaiden intro, in that much like Ninja Gaiden was, the game is a lot about trial and error and more importantly, training yourself on how to complete a level. It’s about breaking down the area between checkpoints and experimenting with how to complete them, and it’s definitely about timing. Go too slow or jump at the wrong time and it is certain death for you, but as with most games of this genre, the more you die, the more you learn how to avoid it. Your skill with platformers obviously plays a huge part in this as well, so as always, your mileage may vary.
I can describe Light Fall graphically in two words, Awe Inspiring. The world of Numbra and it’s many characters are a true site to behold and it’s very reminiscent of Ori and the Blind Forest in its presentation. The beauty and detail of the world and each character are enough to momentarily make me forget that I had just spent 10 minutes trying to get past a single obstacle. The music is similarly beautiful and magical, easily sucking you into the game. The controls are tight and responsive, and while the game can be played via keyboard (if playing on the PC), I highly recommend the use of a good gamepad to protect both yourself, and your keyboard from certain frustration. I used an Xbox One controller and it worked flawlessly…if only the same could be said for the person holding the controller.
Light Fall is a game that will likely frustrate you, particularly in the beginning, but it rewards persistence and trial and error to guide you through your journey in Numbra. While at times it will seem overly difficult and test your resolve, I would never say that any of the levels were unfair, or simply difficult for the sake of being difficult. It’s a beautiful game that has an interesting (even if somewhat hard to follow) story, and the voice acting by the Night Owl Stryx is top-notch. While I can say that Onyx would rather have someone who’s a better platformer controlling his fate than I, I can’t help but continue to come back to it time and time again. Light Fall is a gem of a game and contains a beauty and style all its own. For those interested in pitting your time against others around the world, Light Fall does offer a separate Speed Running mode, where you can play through various levels trying to beat other folks to place you at the top of the leaderboard. If platformers are your thing, I definitely think it’s worth playing. The satisfaction you’ll receive from finally beating a particularly nasty level, will leave you with a sense that you can accomplish anything…well at least until the next particularly nasty level.
What I Liked: Beautiful environment, Responsive and tight controls, Enchanting music, Incredible voice acting
What I Liked Less: Brutal levels early on in the game, Occasionally unclear on where to go next, Checkpoints spaced to far apart in some levels
4 out of 5 stars