I think it's nice to take a break from the games that focus on war and conquest, that have you acting out pain and suffering on a global or galactic scale. Every now and then you just want something a little different. A little, shall we say, tranquil? Relaxing? Peaceful. Unfortunately, I can only think of a handful of games that fit the bill for what I'm looking to experience, it's very much a niche market at the moment, and At $6.99 on Steam the game is pretty reasonably priced considering what is being offered.
This is where Lantern comes in. Released on November 15th, published by a company called 1C and developed by another company named Storm in a Teacup it's an incredibly simple concept with equally simple gameplay mechanics. Bring color back to the world(s) as the wind guiding this little red lantern overhead while warmth and joy follow close behind.
This is not a challenging game. This is not a game that requires a great amount of thought or effort. But then, that's not the point of the game, and the people going in expecting some great and grand struggle to rid the world of some kind of 'darkness' will be disappointed. Lantern is a short 4-5 hour adventure that departs from the traditional routes in gaming to offer up something not often seen.
Lantern doesn't have so much of a plot or a story in the conventional sense. You know where you are and have a general idea of what's going on but there's no character names or exposition or backstory at all really. Based on the little introduction video before the game started there was a sad princess, and it was this sadness that drained the world of all color and happiness. You're put in charge of guiding this magical lamp full of positivity and love and all that fun stuff, returning the colors of the world as you fly around. It's simple.
The game's biggest flaw is the god awful controls. The game is VR compatible and it will work with an Xbox controller. I don't have any VR headset but luckily I did have a wired Xbox controller and was able to plug that in, but to anyone trying to play the game with just your keyboard I'd recommend you get a controller or find another game because it's borderline impossible.
Your level progress is measured by how many of your fellow non-magical little red lanterns you light up I think, and then once you've gotten all of the lanterns in an area with your color beams something like what's happening in the above picture goes off, a bunch of yellow lanterns floats up into the sky from the ground. You don't have to push some button or complete a task, you literally fly overhead. Put generously, it's a painting simulator. A very pretty massive, moving screensaver, but a pretty good one at that. I imagine the game is far better for the VR than it is the PC, much more immersive and relaxing than sitting at your desk hunched over a computer monitor. Sadly, a VR headset doesn't offer much beyond a 360 field of vision for when you're flying around, it doesn't do much to add to the experience.
There are four levels here, and each of them is themed after one of the four seasons. What surprised me and upset me in equal measure, however, was the lack of any save option. If you're in the middle of hunting down that final little red lantern I suggest you set aside some time, otherwise, it's back to the beginning of the level for you. Luckily though the game is short enough for you to complete this in one evening provided you have nothing else going on and no interruptions.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are good, obviously, as its one of the games main pulls. But it feels like one of the games main points, beauty, is a little bit lacking and I'm wondering if this was done deliberately to give it a more uniquely aesthetic feel. The sound, however, is seriously lacking. Granted, it's a relaxing set of little songs so mission accomplished on that front, but listening to the same notes over and over and over again tends to get on your nerves, which isn't very fitting with the game's theme of 'calm and relaxing' at all. It just feels like there was an opportunity missed here to make up for some of the ground lost on the visual aspect.
But the question you have to ask yourself is this: would I buy this game? There isn't much replay value but it can entertain for a few hours and it is a break from the traditional and more mainstream kind of game that we all have been buying and playing for so many years now. But I don't think I would buy it, no. Even for a game that presents itself as a relaxing and calm experience, it isn't that relaxing or calm at times. Trying to figure out the controls before I plugged in my controller wasn't the most relaxing of experiences, and you can imagine my surprise when I decide to pause for the evening in the middle of my game only to find that I'll have to restart everything. If I had to sum it up in one quick sentence, I would describe Lantern as 'like if China did a stress coloring book.' But I think the pros here outweigh the cons just enough for me to give it a solid six out of ten.
|+ Calm, relaxing game||– Limited sound track|
|+ Priced well||– Low replay value|
|+ It's a fast game to get through||– Difficult to play without controller|
|+ Visually appealing||– No save option|