Light Fall is a platformer where you make your own platforms. With the use of a box you can summon and use in a number of ways, each level accommodates this mechanic to create a fast-paced system that encourages improvisation, experimentation, and exploration. All of this is set within the backdrop of stunning locales and an enchanting soundtrack that perfectly underscores its mystical yet dangerous tone. While the story can seem extremely rushed and directed for a younger audience than the game’s often taxing difficulty would suggest, there is no denying Light Fall’s charm as a unique take on the platformer genre.
Light Fall Launch Trailer – Nintendo Switch
Without finding all of the collectibles, you won’t get the entire story, as the reward for retrieving “memory shards” is essentially a medium-length chapter to fill in some of the background lore. Reading like a novel for people between 10 and 15, the writing style might not impress those outside of the intended demographic but certainly doesn’t induce any amount of cringe. It follows the story of a group of people attempting to colonize a foreign land, fleeing from war. While I haven’t found and read every excerpt for the purpose of this review, it generally sees the captain of this expedition and his crew deal with problems inherent with living in this new land shrouded in darkness, such as crew disputes, encounters with both benign and menacing inhabitants, and uncovering the land’s many mysteries.
Regardless of quality, these chapters can seem a bit too extensive in quantity. Many of the memory shards drag on for a bit too long, especially since they automatically scroll whenever you reach a checkpoint with no current means of accessing them otherwise. It should be noted however that the developers, Bishop Games, plan to provide a way for people to make these memory shards more accessible in a future update.
The directly presented story feels like it would have much more of an impact if it were presented differently. It follows the adventures of an initially amnesiac (because of course) boy who meets Stryx, an owl guide. He saves the boy and helps him on his journey to uncover his memories and free the gods of the Kamloops, the land’s inhabitants. Many of the story points move past so quickly that it’s hard to fully absorb it all, especially since it usually has little to no impact on the actual gameplay. There are a few plot twists and characters that might seem like they would have been interesting, but many of the serious moments are marred by Stryx’s unwavering silly voice. While it was initially amusing, it quickly became clear that the voice actor received little to no direction, delivering lines meant to be either amusing or grave in the same playful tone. Nonetheless, no cutscenes take over a couple of minutes, and most of the dialogue is delivered in the midst of actual gameplay.
What makes Light Fall distinct from most other platformers is the use of the Shadow Core, which can summon up to four consecutive boxes to land on before needing to land on another platform to recharge. You can also use the Shadow Core to create a shield or to punch an enemy, although combat is very much secondary to the actual platforming. Far from being too easy, however, this extra control lets the developers place otherwise impossible gaps and obstacles in the way, eventually forcing you to utilize the Shadow Core to its fullest extent. This gets very difficult, very fast, but every challenge the game throws at you feels fair and doable with a few, or a few hundred, tries.
Fortunately, Light Fall makes liberal use of checkpoints to usually prevent too much repetition of already conquered challenges. The one exception to this rule is during boss fights, which often require a lot of skill from the player and yet provide no checkpoints in between each tier, creating frustration not present in most of the rest of the game. Surprisingly, the final boss will be scrapped altogether and replaced with a new, slightly easier boss in a future update to the game. Checkpoints also serve as the points at which you deposit the memory shards, meaning that even if you manage to obtain it, you’ll still lose it if you die before reaching one.
While most levels in Light Fall consist of you eventually making your way right, with some notable exceptions, there are plenty of diversions and branching paths along the way. Some areas are more open than others, but most of them allow for some amount of exploration. Through prodding around suspicious areas, climbing over instead of going through a mountain, or getting past an especially difficult passage, you can be rewarded with the previously mentioned gold shards, blue shards that are a bit easier to find but provide no reward other than completion, or even a shortcut.
Although Light Fall already strikes a stiff challenge, those looking for even more have all of the gold and blue shards, hard mode, and online speedrun scoreboards to keep the most hardcore fans engaged for a very long time, even if a casual playthrough might not exceed around seven hours.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
Light Fall uses a silhouetted art style for almost everything in the game, from characters to the environment. Drowned in dark blues and purples, anything important stands out in a stark contrast of bright pinks and yellows. Not only does this assist with immediately noticing anything of importance, but it also creates a beautiful portrait in practically every frame. Add to all that the graceful movement of your character and the harsh edges and curves of the silhouetted environment, and you’ve got something truly breathtaking.
In between levels, each cutscene contains a series of art stills with narration from Stryx. Each of these is particularly well designed and provide another perspective through which to view this mystical world. The controller vibrates constantly throughout every cutscene for seemingly no contextual reason, and while it is possible to turn off HD rumble during cutscenes, it’s odd that it was there in the first place.
The soundtrack aims to capture the same mystical tone created so well in the art style, and largely succeeds, if not with quite as much glamor. Making full use of chimes, strings, and a choir, Light Fall’s soundtrack is perfectly serviceable with some exceptional standouts but doesn’t often provide anything out of the ordinary.
Indie platformers seem to be about a dime a dozen nowadays, especially on Switch. Because of this, you might be tempted to skip over Light Fall just due to the sheer number of choices. And while I can’t say that Light Fall is the best indie platformer on Switch (Shovel Knight strikes some hard competition), I can say with full confidence that it’s one of the most unique. I’ve never played anything that gives the same level of fluid movement that Light Fall’s Shadow Core provides, and this swift movement combines with challenging and expansive level design to make anyone playing feel like a speedrunner.
|+ Inventive platforming with a fair challenge||– Boss fights can be overly frustrating|
|+ Stunning background art with good music||– Unfocused story delivered by seemingly uncaring actor|
|+ Plenty of extra collectibles and speedrunning opportunities|