Upon seeing the cute anime presentation of Light Tracer, many Western gamers may shrug off the title, assuming it’s not for them. They may even see the child friendly colour palette and assume the game is going to be too softcore for them, not offering up an adequate challenge. To assume any of these things is foolish. Light Tracer is not trying to be a master of any one thing. It’s not trying to wow you with sublime storytelling or high fidelity graphics. Quite simply because to be as successful as it quite frankly is, it doesn’t need any of these things. What will win you over, whether you’re five or fifty, is Light Tracer’s charm and imaginative level design.
Please be aware that images seen here are not representative of in game image quality, due to differences between VR and standard PC resolutions.
As you may have already gathered, Light Tracer is more concerned with moment to moment player experience than telling a story. That is by no means a bad thing, as the game will hold your attention just fine with its spectacular level design and soundtrack. Topics we’ll cover later in the review.
That said, there is a little lore to add context to the never ending tower in the sky. As the game begins, we’ll become acquainted with a young princess who seems to have lost her way. It is in this moment that she puts her faith in a divine being (you) to light the way for her to proceed. As we go from one chapter to the next, the princess will talk to us and teach us a little more about the mythos surrounding the Tower of Bellbatis and the gods that lie in wait above.
As the story continues, we’ll learn more about this being that we, the player inhabits. We’ll also learn about the illness that has befallen the princess’ people below and her relation to us. That’s pretty much it! The story is presented in small segments between chapters with little cinematic direction. Although, as I said, Light Tracer is not trying to be some kind of epic odyssey.
There are plenty of platformers a VR headset owner can play. Although, I’ve yet to see one that handles the platforming / puzzling format quite like Light Tracer does. The idea is to physically move the level environment with your left hand in order to get a good angle on jumps and understand where threats are coming from. It’s a game that understands VR as it never insists on any one perspective, leaving it to the player to decide what’s best for them and their playstyle. It offers a kind of freedom that fits the platformer genre despite how unusual or new it is. The player can hold the left move controller to their chest, pull the trigger and physically push the level away to get a zoomed out shot and vice versa for a closer look at those tricky jumps. It won’t be too long before the player is spinning and zooming the level around like Tony Stark using his holographic lab… And it feels great. It feels functional.
Your right hand is then all about directing the princess. She won’t move unless the player specifies it with a beaming ray of light. While it can be a little tricky handling jumps (even more so for rotating platforms) this also serves as something quite functional. Yet, even early on in the game when it throws its first challenges your way, Light Tracer will make you frustrated. Those funny noises you make when playing a difficult game and failing over and over – yes, you’ll be making them. Rather a lot too. Although, in those places where you start growling at your screen like a mildly annoyed lion, you will only being failing because you’re not handling the game properly. Indeed, it takes some getting used to as the movement mechanics are like nothing we’ve ever had to handle before. The beam of light has to be in exactly the right place at all times and the level has to be positioned in a way that will help you. Forget to do either of those things and the game may begin to feel unfair. It’s mechanics are sound and cannot be held at fault. It’s just because… well, you’re not playing it properly.
Ironically, the handling of the princess and the level itself was something I greatly appreciated, despite its rage inducing tendencies. From the outset, I expected Light Tracer to be a casual-from-start-to-finish kind of affair. It wasted no time proving me wrong as it began to throw lateral thinking puzzles at me, combined with threats like tumbling boulders. Or evil little red acorns… Light Tracer is a devilishly challenging game disguised as a casual one. That in itself, was a pleasant surprise which added significance to the completion of each level.
Another surprise was the existence of boss fights. The game’s format, being as puzzle oriented as it is, had me assuming again that there would be no fighting here on the infinite tower of conundrums. Yet at the end of each chapter, I would be presented with a boss that pretty much every time, would be throwing… something at me. With no weapons, the princess must use the environment to fight back and essentially make the boss hurt itself. This is a kind of puzzle fight that we would expect to see in Crash Bandicoot or Spyro. It’s also a kind of puzzle boss fight that endured the longest into AAA gaming gaming with Resident Evil. A boss fight that will always be more satisfying than simply depleting a health bar. A boss fight that requires you to think. Lovely.
Graphics and Sound
The overall presentation of Light Tracer absolutely bangs the nail on the head. It is playfully colourful and each chapter differs drastically in style. For green verdant areas near the start, it’ll be relaxing yet upbeat tones. For a fiery level, we’ll get drums and guitars. In a way, the soundtrack of Light Tracer is brave enough to tackle all kinds of jingles ranging from soothing flutes to angry drum and bass. It never feels jarring as, somehow, each track fits the level like a key in a lock. With that, the door is opened to a game brimming with personality.
It’s this kind of personality that really props Light Tracer up in its most difficult moments. A game with charm that makes you smile is likely to keep you around that little bit longer to try that thing just one more time. For a game to achieve that is no small task and developer Void Dimensions should be applauded for it. Without this charisma permeating the game, the graphics may be up for a little scrutiny. Yet, Light Tracer doesn’t need to be a high fidelity eye popper to enjoy the success that it does.
For a VR player looking for something different, Light Tracer is an absolute must. I don’t care if you’re a dyed in the wool first person shooter type. It matters not if your a young child or a grown adult. We VR headset owners have access to a library of games built by developers that are still trying to innovate and come up with smart ideas to leverage the tech medium in surprising new ways. For now, Light Tracer is one of those games. At less than half of typical asking price for videogames these days, go ahead and grab Light Tracer. Give yourself a pleasant surprise, as I did.
+ Fresh and original design saves the day
– Can be rage inducing
+ Puzzles are consistently challenging
– Occasional difficulty spikes
+ Accessible to all audiences