I am assuming everyone reading this is in the same age bracket I am. 35-50. If so you may remember He-Man. Well did you know one of the characters got their own spin off videogame in 2020? No? Well it appears Orko is still super popular and got a new starring role in Gleamlight!
I kid of course, but I couldn’t un-see it once I noticed the character design. Anyway, what is Gleamlight? In short it is a 2D fantasy adventure platformer. I won’t go as far as to say metroidvania, but there are some influences there for sure.
There are two things that stood out when I played Gleamlight and are clear standouts for the game. First it is a beautiful game to look at, with a visual design that draws you in and engulfs you in a world that is full of atmosphere. It is dark, but the flashes of colour throughout give it an amazing charm.
At times it can look like you are playing a moving stain-glassed window. I was taken aback by some of the effects with lighting and the contrast you’d get between dark shadow and blinding colour. This alone made me want to both stay put and admire there scenery, but also push on to see what came next.
The other big thing for me, was the complete lack of a UI. It took me a while to realise that there wasn’t one as I was playing, such was the joy of being in the environments Gleamlight presents. It is a game that urges you to discover and in lacking a UI it does that brilliantly.
It is unfortunate then, that this is where Gleamlight peaks. As I found after the first hour I had experienced all I wanted to, or needed to experience. The game looks beautiful yes, it has a sense of discovery, but the gameplay just felt stale and lacked in almost every area.
Enemy design isn’t great and far too often wasn’t standing out from the environment enough. Leading to lots of guess work, which is either some poor design, or a deliberate design choice. Either way, it doesn’t work. It is the same with environmental traps, again I get the need for them to be there and making them difficult to traverse. But here they were more annoying than anything.
Platforming felt very floaty, but not in a good way. There didn’t seem to be any logic with which platforms you can and can’t reach. I wasn’t expecting Super Meat Boy levels of pixel perfect movement, but something just felt off.
Now I know it sounds like I am attacking the game, but that is because I was very frustrated with it. As a game it reminds me so much of a Zack Snyder film. In particular Sucker Punch. Everything you see prior to the the actual experience suggests a wonderful looling experience with an interesting premise. Yet only ends up delivering visually.
Like Sucker Punch, I honestly believe there is something great hidden within. The team behind Gleamlight clearly have some talent and I hope they learn from this and make something that takes the next step down the line. Unfortunately and it pains me to say this. Gleamlight just isn’t that game.