Platforming games have evolved since the early days of Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, but a mainstay concept requires your character to leap from surface to surface while avoiding obstacles. That hasn’t changed much from Sonic the Hedgehog to Mega Man X to Ori and the Blind Forest. However, Bishop Games, an ambitious Canadian developer, has decided to innovate on the platforming formula through its debut title, Light Fall. With its cool-colored silhouette-based art style and challenging levels, the game turns the genre on its head by allowing the player to create platforms as they go, and it gets a little more complex than it initially seems.
At the start of Light Fall, you’re introduced to the player character, Nox, and his grumpy owl follower, Stryx. Nox stumbles upon the Shadow Core, the figurative toolbox for his journey through Numbra, the mysterious setting of the game. The Shadow Core can create a square platform under Nox’s feet at the push of a button, but it can also appear to the side of him, acting as a wall to jump off or hide behind. It can launch projectiles at enemies, and the player can daintily place a square wherever they please. Freely placing a square in certain contraptions allows the player to control mechanical parts of the level, like rotating platforms or propelling a boat. The only rule governing the Shadow Core is that when in the air, it can only be used four times before Nox has to touch solid ground again.
The level design perfectly complements the mechanics of the Shadow Core. At many points in the game, there are multiple ways through or around an obstacle. With the four-times-per-leap limit, this organically creates puzzles for the player to solve as they go through the level. When used one way, a player can reach unexpected heights to reach new surfaces, but alternatively, when used a different way, the Shadow Core lets Nox maneuver through a tricky maze full of spikes. As you progress, you learn faster and better ways to move around in the game, even in the last few levels. In this way, Light Fall evokes a similar feeling to Super Mario Odyssey in that all the mechanics are simple at first, but when combined in varying ways, an experienced player can reach areas they didn’t think were accessible hours prior.
The gameplay is absolutely where Light Fall shines the brightest, with the aesthetic sitting not too far behind it. The game has an art style that is reminiscent of Limbo but is far more colorful. The palette favors cool blues and purples, which makes the moments with bright oranges and yellows stand out. Every character in the game is a dark silhouette, with the only distinguishing feature being their white eyes. During gameplay, Nox’s dark form stands out gorgeously against the mellow but beautiful backgrounds, and the same can be said for all the other characters during the cutscenes.
Unfortunately, those cutscenes might be the weakest part of Light Fall’s package. The story isn’t the killer feature of this platformer. While it’s conveyed well enough, it won’t really leave a lasting impact. And it’s not like the game is trying to be a paragon of storytelling; the main menu has an option called “Speedrun,” implying that gameplay is the focal point.
For platforming and speedrun enthusiasts, Light Fall serves as an excellent playground to flex your in-game running and jumping muscles. Even for more casual players, the first few hours will have some intriguing and fun moments to explore, and experimenting with the Shadow Core is a blast. Fair warning, however: Toward the end, the game may get frustrating for novices. To add to the difficulty, checkpoints get more sparse, especially in the last level. Nox dies after taking any hit, meaning one mistake could cost you minutes of progress. For speedrunning, however, this means little to nothing, considering that death means starting over from the beginning anyway. Playing the story mode can take three or four hours, but the free-form, fluid gameplay beckons you to come back for more. For both new and experienced gamers, Light Fall is a stellar platformer that you won’t want to miss.
Light Fall is out for Nintendo Switch via the eShop and PC via Steam, and it costs $15.
Robert reviewed it on PC courtesy of a Steam code provided by Bishop Games.