Platforming games have been having a bit of a renaissance in the past decade thanks to inventive puzzlers like Braid, to brutally difficult platformers like Ori and the Blind Forest and Super Meat Boy, and more. With a combination of lush visuals, challenging levels, and an exceptionally unique gameplay mechanic, Bishop Games’ Light Fall looks to continue that tradition of enhancing what platformers can accomplish when it releases later this month.
During PAX East 2018 in Boston, we had the opportunity to check out the opening stages of Light Fall, the upcoming new platformer from developer Bishop Games. At first glance, Light Fall looks like a striking blend of platformers from the past, with the two that came to mind for me being LIMBO and Ori and the Blind Forest.
However, what became more apparent from playing the first act of the game is that Light Fall is very much a refreshing take on modern platformers thanks to its main mechanic, the Shadow Core. Aside from running, jumping, and more complex mechanics like dashing and wall-jumping, the main character in Light Fall utilizes a key ability called the Shadow Core to manipulate a sort of magical “box” that has a variety of uses in-game, and the ways that Bishop Games implements the mechanic makes for a particularly challenging platformer.
The primary use for the Shadow Core is that it acts almost like a double-jump: after you jump, in mid-air when you press the jump button again, a platform will spawn underneath your character. This action can be performed up to 4 times before the player has to “reset” the ability by landing on solid ground, making precision and timing as crucial as your reflexes and ability to react to enemies or obstacles quickly.
While it took me a few moments to adjust to the mechanic, after a few levels everything that Light Fall was doing started to click. Though the Shadow Core blocks in a way feel like a traditional double jump in other platformers, the context and abilities of the Shadow Core and how they are used throughout the game’s levels and puzzles go way beyond just that.
The platforms you spawn not only can help you get up to higher areas, but the blocks also work as makeshift shields, as players can also spawn and maneuver their Shadow Core to block obstacles like lasers, or to power environmental objects. In an example from one stage, I had to power a boat using a Shadow Core to get across an expansive lake area, and in that time I not only had to propel the boat using the Shadow Core, but also had to dodge and avoid enemies while traversing the environment, adding an extra layer of challenge.
Even from the brief time that I had with Light Fall and its Shadow Core mechanics, what impressed me most were the new and unique ways that the game was incorporating the Shadow Core into both the gameplay and level design and continuously had me rethinking how to apply it while overcoming puzzles and obstacles. And like I mentioned earlier, a vital part of the challenge is the fact that the Shadow Core, when jumping, has a limited number of uses, which made it all the more challenging to complete the levels as I had to time and space out the number of times I spawned a new block.
Light Fall was certainly challenging in the demo we played, and given that we only played about 20-30 minutes from the game’s opening segments, there is no telling how much more complex or difficult the game could get. From what I played, I think the game strikes just the right balance (so far) of being approachable and fun, but with some challenging platforming and puzzles integrated gradually throughout the experience.
The one lone issue I might see being an issue in Light Fall so far is checkpointing and level progression. In a few instances there were some areas in the levels that I had an exceedingly difficult time with, usually because they required a sophisticated degree of platforming and precise timing, and one mistake would lead to death. While Light Fall drops you back in after a few seconds after death to retry the challenge again, there were a few times (especially in an area towards the end of the demo) where the last checkpoint I had was quite a ways back, making me have to retry longer, extended sequences over and over again.
This isn’t necessarily an unusual thing for a lot of platformers like this — games like Super Meat Boy and Ori and the Blind Forest have had no shame in billing themselves as quite challenging platformers. In Light Fall‘s case, there is that sort of satisfaction as getting past a particularly challenging section of platforming has a certain rush to it. However, it may depend on the player on their willingness to repeat certain parts a few times, which some players could frustrate as much as it is rewarding due to some of the checkpoint placements.
That being said, Light Fall might just be my surprise favorite game from PAX East that I had time with on the show floor and an indie that I’ll certainly be keeping on eye on as it nears release very, very soon. From top to bottom, the platforming and controls felt just as good as some of the best from the platforming genre (rivaling even Super Meat Boy or Ori and the Blind Forest), and the game’s lush visuals are filled with detailed backgrounds and smooth animation that really add to the sense of speed and mobility that your character has at his disposal.
At first glance, Light Falls appears to be balancing a lot of different components at once, but when playing the game, its different pieces click together quite nicely. With a balance of reasonably difficult platforming and some precise puzzle-solving, Light Fall will surely appeal to players that want to their brains tested as much as their fingers, and personally, I’m looking forward to the rest of the challenges that it will have in store.
Light Fall will be coming to Nintendo Switch and PC later this month.