Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on PC, PS4 and Xbox One)
Developer|Publisher: DICO | D3Publisher
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £14.99 | EU €19,99 | US $19.99
Release Date: 20th August 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to D3Publsiher
Judge a Book
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ A phrase that holds true for all forms of entertainment including video games. However, sometimes we can’t help but be pulled in by an impressive front cover of a book or an intriguing game trailer. Gleamlight is a game that looks quite interesting with its unique art style and general mystery surrounding it. But is there more to it than just looks? Let’s check it out.
Up For Interpretation
Gleamlight puts you in the glass pointy toes of Gleam, a red wizard looking character with his/her little sword. There are no cutscenes and no story to set the scene for you. The game simply begins and leaves it up to the player to interpret what’s going on. This is a design choice I have always enjoyed and something rarely seen in modern games. It allows your imagination to run a little wild and come up with all sorts of theories of what’s happening in this world made of glass. So here’s mine; Gleam’s spirit and soul is tied to a character made of glass and they’re trying to find a way to save the world of glass by taking out all the dark shard enemies whose aim is to extinguish the light forever. To me, this game is about holding on to the light and trying your utmost not to let it go. Of course, I’m probably way off to the actual message of this game.
Stunning Stained Glass Window
Gleamlight’s graphics are beautiful. The characters and levels have this stained glass design. With lots of colour and a plentiful supply of enemies and boss characters populating these dark glass caverns. When you destroy enemies or the environment it shatters into shards. It’s something the developers should be very proud of. It’s just a shame the game is so dark. The source of light comes from Gleam which radiates out giving you a small circular field of view. However, the more times Gleam gets hit the more the light extinguishes making it even harder to see what’s going on. There were many times in this game I would take a leap of faiths off platforms only to often land into pits of spikes or several enemies. A frustrating design but unfortunately the frustrations didn’t end there.
Controls seem simple to begin. You move and swipe with your little sword. There is a janky feel to everything which soon became a nuisance when the combat got too hectic. There appears to be a mild delay in the movement. Often I would move Gleam around to face a different direction to attack an enemy and instead, Gleamlight seems to moonwalk (walking backwards while still facing the other direction) until I literally un-press all the controls and just start again. A delay that usually leaves me open for a flurry of attacks from enemies.
The graphics are unique and the highlight of the game
When you hit enemies they release a little light that you absorb. This enables you to replenish a little health. However, the same rules apply to the enemies and boss characters. If they hit you they gain a little light or health back. So the game becomes this sort of tennis match of who can hit each other more before the other shatters into glass. This design became a huge stress in boss fights. Boss encounters are quite frantic anyway and not easy with the jerky controls. Add the weird health system to this and you have encounters that could last ages adding to further stress and general frustration to the game.
New Hidden Abilities
Each time you take down a boss character you usually unlock a new ability. The game doesn’t inform you of this since its going for the immersive hub less design. You kinda only figure it out but pressing unused buttons on the controller and suddenly realizing you can now double jump. While I appreciate what the developers are trying to do with this design it probably wouldn’t have harmed to have some form of prompt that a new ability had unlocked. Maybe have a ghost character show off the new move in the background that way the immersion is left in tack. The only way to know you have even unlocked new moves is to enter the options and see the achievements unlocked.
Short and Linear
To my surprise, two hours into the game the credits started to roll. I took on another difficult boss fight and genuinely thought I had finished the game. That was not the case. As soon as you boot the game back up again you essentially go back through the game backwards but you encounter new enemies, bosses and unlock new abilities. The game actually offers multiple endings but since the design is quite vague the only way I knew of their existence was looking it up online. The overall game is quite linear. There are no collectibles to find or alternative routines. Once the game is done there is not a lot of incentive to replay at least not for me.
A Stained Game
Gleamlight has the looks with it’s beautiful design and unique world. Sadly disappointing controls and mechanics lead to an overly frustrating experience which I didn’t find particularly enjoyable. Maybe something to check out on sale but this is a piece of art worth just observing rather than playing.
Final Verdict: I’m not Sure