I have always enjoyed a good story and with games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the recently released What Remains of Edith Finch, there has been no shortage of interactive story adventure games.
The Town of Light is the latest entry in this genre and while it manages to sound promising by presenting an story that is partly inspired from true events based on a mental asylum and how its patients were treated, it also suffers from a narrative that doesn’t offer immediate clear answers, and a gameplay that forces you to finish the game instead of actually enjoying the experience.
The Town of Light story is based on true events as the game prominently displays right at the start. It is set entirely in a psychiatric hospital at Volterra in Italy. The story is told through flashbacks of the main character Renée, who is schizophrenic and was admitted to this hospital during her teenage years. You will explore the now abandoned asylum in the present controlling her as she recalls her memory and the events that happened to her there. The game is being sold as a horror story but there is no jump scare or any visual horror, instead the horror elements are all psychological told through the flashbacks.
The Town of Light is a walking simulator at its core. There is no hud or any visual elements. There is not even icons for objects for the most part or no visual cues that show you where to go for your next objective. Instead the game relies on your own instincts to pick up the story and determine the objectives. This is one aspect that I didn’t like not because I was stuck, but more because of how slow everything felt. You will explore this abandoned asylums picking apart the story of Renée as you learn more about her history. The game doesn’t even spend a moment to explain how things work and expects you to learn it yourself.
There is an interaction button that you can press to see if the object can be interacted but that’s how the game plays for the most part. You can pay attention to a cursor in the middle of the screen to determine the interactivity of the object that you are examining but for the most part, you will be mindlessly trying to explore every nook and cranny of the asylum as you determine your next move. It feels frustrating at times when you are stuck trying to determine what went wrong and why the story is not progressing to the next chapter.
This brings me to the story of the game. As important as story is to the game, it is poorly explained. Majority of the story is detailed in the documents that you unlock as you progress through the game. My issue here was that these felt awkward to explain the story especially on the PS4 where the text size was so small I had to squint sometime to read the text presented on the screen. It was also awkwardly placed on screen and could have done with a good makeover to make the text readable. This might seem like a minor qualm but considering how important these documents are in explaining the story, it can become a headache quickly.
The asylum itself is rather poorly designed with assets that feel like they are simply copied from room to room. You can interact with doors but somehow there is no animation for the character to properly open the doors so you will keep getting stuck in trying to open them. You will soon learn that to open door correctly, you will need to keep a distance from them. It is a simple element of the game that could have been improved with a little refinement but alas this is not the case here.
Gameplay issues aside, the story of the game is rather dark. There is all sorts of mental abuse being presented including sexual and physical abuse of the patients. These are events are pretty horrifying to read and witness in the game and to think they are based on true events, it feels a bit too much at times.
The Town of Light had potential for so much more but unfortunately it doesn’t deliver on what it promises. Instead we are left with a game that actively discourages you to continue playing it with its frustrating gameplay design, but the sense of mystery surrounding the story and the desire to dig deeper will keep you to continue playing it.
The Town of Light Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: The Town of Light is a psychological thriller game developed and published by LKA, an independent Italian company based in Florence .
The Town of Light sounds like an interesting interactive adventure from the outset however it suffers from a story that is terribly told and a gameplay that feels archaic forcing you to motivate yourself to finish the game.