Glo is a puzzle-platformer by default, with an added twist that, while not revolutionary, gives an intriguing spin to the genre of games it accompanies. The map of each level is shrouded in pitch darkness, with only a low light that locks to the center of the player’s square, following wherever it moves. They say hindsight is 20/20, but foresight is a lot less concrete, forcing the player to play with trial and error, memorization, and strategy. The darkness seems like a one-sided gimmick, but it actually encourages a lot more mental optimization than I would’ve expected prior to playing. The beginning hours are an easygoing trip, stumbling only upon some trickery thrown in by the developer. If only I had known just how dedicated I would have to be to break through the other side of this blank dimension.
Glo is available for purchase on Steam for your regional pricing.
It’s almost humorous to imagine some deep lore for a game where you control a square traveling through dark corridors full of more squares. However, there is some story for players to digest as they go through (almost) every stage. Text will appear in scripted spots detailing dialogue from some looming presence who seems to control the world the player is suddenly transported into. And that’s basically it. Text is about as detailed as it gets, and it normally doesn’t cover much, with only one or two sentences or remarks in every stage it decides to appear. More than anything, it feels like a reminder rather than something to really care about as the gameplay takes near-sole precedence. It didn’t really make me feel any more motivated to complete Glo, nor did I feel any semblance of wanting to know more.
This isn’t to say that the attempt isn’t admirable; it simply doesn’t feel necessary. Perhaps it was a decision to keep the player in the dark, along with the gameplay itself, but with how often the text appears (especially early on) and how repetitively the sentences create this portrait of an evil-for-the-sake-of-evil “character,” it feels almost distracting. Although, maybe that was the point. To distract from the simple goal of escape. Regardless, should the developer desire to make some sort of narrative intrigue, I would suggest a little more restraint in the mocking nature and develop more of a motivation or enigmatic tone. Not a huge detail, nonetheless.
The true meat, appeal, glamour—or whatever else—lies within the gameplay of Glo. I’ll say this firsthand: Glo is one of the hardest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Without a shred of exaggeration, this game had me so focused on completing certain levels that it gave me headaches. Difficulty in video games is a bit of a hot topic in the gaming industry right now, with games such as Cuphead and the ever-so-popular Dark Souls becoming platforms arguing further inclusiveness within the medium. Glo, I would argue, could be placed within that category of games that would infuriate some into more than a few bouts of frustrated explosiveness. What makes the feeling of dread justified is how elating it can feel when one finally manages to triumph over that atrocious part, or that impossible boss. The highest compliment I can give to Glo is that it is difficult on the part of mastering its mechanics, rather than padding or unfair rules.
Consisting of 100 levels and four boss battles that don’t count towards the level count, Glo’s level of difficulty slowly increases as it goes along—just not consecutively. After each boss fight (after 25 levels), the game will introduce a new concept that the player has to account for in future levels, with the first few levels after each boss fight being like tutorial levels for getting used to this new wrench in the machinery. The game allows the player ample time to get used to these aspects without overwhelming the player with an apocalypse of alien concepts. One could almost see it as a bicycle pump: it pushes the player in and continues to build difficulty until the end of a single pump, then restarts the process. The most frustrating sequences of Glo’s gameplay comes from preciseness and good instincts, things that can be achieved through practice and occasionally dumb luck. It at no point felt like the game was conspiring against me, only motivating me to try and try and try again.
Try I did. The game features, perhaps as a badge of honor or a grim reminder of its difficulty, a total death count on the main menu screen. Can you guess how many times I died during the course of the game? One hundred times? Two hundred? Three? Correct answer: 1,500 times. You will die a lot in Glo. That much is certain. Three specific levels that I found particularly difficult were levels 75, 89, and 100, and these levels produced a large chunk of my total death count. These levels are particularly stringent upon the preciseness of controls and trial and error, along with being exceptionally long (Death results in starting at the beginning of the level. No checkpoints). Do not let the simplicity of the design trick you into thinking this game will be a casual walk in the park. Oh, and the player dies in a single hit.
Lighting the darkness (and core gameplay)
Thankfully, as this game is not totally sadistic, Glo offers a variety of different utilities for the player to more easily make their way to the end of each level. Such is the simple, but effective “shoot” feature. The player can shoot a little bullet of light in any direction, lighting a path as the bullet travels across the area. Better yet, there is no ammo; one can shoot to their heart’s content. Though not only a light source, it can also manage to destroy airborne enemies that slowly follow the player around. The shoot feature is such an essential part of one’s arsenal that it becomes nearly essential to complete the game. More than that, however, it gives a sense of power to the player that makes exploring more of a motivational possibility. Such a standard concept becomes so much more gratifying in a game that doesn’t try to do more than it needs to.
Scattered throughout various levels are also secondary weapons, which compared to the main shoot feature, are incredibly lackluster. Most of the time, I found myself wasting these secondary weapons out of desperation to find any use for them. Extra light sources, larger killing capability, or just using it to use it, the secondary weapons made hardly a difference to my experience, and while the spice of variety is appreciated, it didn’t feel all that important—even during boss fights.
One of the more intriguing, and basic, aspects of Glo is control. The square the player controls is somewhat slippery, but stops almost immediately. It can double-jump, wall-jump, and jump (once) within open air. Within platformers, some of the most precise jumps or aerobatic maneuvers depend entirely on what the player can and can’t control. Glo isn’t exactly perfect at this, either. I can’t count the number of times I’ve died due to hitting a direction on the analog stick too hard or misjudging the height or scale of a jump. Just a little too much like playing on ice, while also braking with near-perfect accuracy. Again, a lot of this is based on mastering gameplay mechanics, yet there are times I couldn’t help but wonder. If there is one other fault I could note about the controls, it’s that aiming with the analog stick is more fickle than it should be. Otherwise, I had more fun with controlling more square than I wouldn’t expected beforehand.
Graphics & Audio
Squares. Lots of black squares with colorful outlines dedicated to telling the player what is what and what it does. Some are safe, most are not. The player is a square, they travel on squares, the enemies are either rectangles or a combination of squares and rectangles, and the boss is a giant circle shadow which, when hit, turns into a giant red square. The entrances and exits are squares. Basically everything is a square and/or a variation of one. Aside from that, white. Just blank whiteness or blank blackness. There really is no pizzazz behind Glo’s aesthetic design. Just squares.
To be fair, they’re nice squares. Easily distinguishable and nice to look at. Has almost a retro feel to it that pays homage to the days of old arcade machines. There was never an instance where I found myself feeling cheated because the game didn’t inherently tell me that a square was good or bad; I could just assume and the game made it fairly clear with their placement. Another nice thing aside from sheen is the placement, showing what can and can’t be possible for players. That is, if they can see them. All in all, it’s not so interesting that it distracts from the gameplay, but not interesting enough to fawn over when all’s said and done. Another tool to simply boost the game’s mechanics.
I quite liked the boss theme of the game. Gave me an old-school F-Zero vibe. Unfortunately, there are maybe seven tracks in the entire game. One plays for the first quarter of the game, then the second, and so on; there’s a boss theme and a theme that starts when one opens the game. In all honesty, the music does more for the atmosphere of the game than the constant dialogue cues. Be that as it may, it’s not entirely impressive. Base music that plays in the background that slightly heightens anxiety, but not particularly catchy or even appropriate within the setting. It would be interesting to see the environment of the game change a little as the game progresses, with the soundtrack becoming more dim as a result (which it does, but without the environmental changes). Perhaps like the world being the state of the “Creator’s” mental fortitude, slowly breaking as the player continues to progress. Some missed opportunities here, as instead the developer goes through with making it fairly baseline. Not that it’s altogether ruined from this, but it could certainly help intrigue in the long run.