Lighting up the stealth genre
Team17 hasn’t published a third-party title in around 20 years. It’s a big announcement to make, and Just A Pixel’s Light is the guinea pig for the entire project. But it’s not something that the Just A Pixel team needs to worry about, as my hands-on experience with Light at EGX Rezzed suggests that this is a stealth gem in the making.
Inspired by the likes of Johnny Mnemonic, a film that sees Keanu Reeves storing data in his brain as an illegal information courier, Light places you in the shoes of an amnesiac. Albeit, one whose memory loss is attributable to being abducted and experimented on as part of something called ‘Project Light’. It’s here that, while supernatural powers begin to creep in, you’ll rely on sneaking skills to uncover the truth.
And, I have to say, despite the minimalist appearance, this is one incredibly complex stealth game. Viewed from a top-down perspective, with all guards and NPCs seen as moving squares, you need to sneak through levels avoiding guard attention as you grab hidden intel dotted around the level. And there’s an awful lot to find too, hidden in all manner of places, indicated by a blue-outline around an object of interest.
Anything with a green outline can also be interacted with, and in most cases it’s a computer terminal that can be hacked. Hacking isn’t some complex mini-game here. Instead it’s a test of timing. Holding down the ‘E’ key hacks, but you need to make sure you don’t do it with a guard potentially able to spot you in the process. Once hacked, a terminal line appears on the map, following it eventually takes you to another point to hack – usually opening a locked door. It’s here that Light becomes even more clever. Lure a guard into a room you’ve hacked entry into and you’ll be able to actually lock them in, keeping yourself safe and opening up new paths for exploration.
You may well be able to tell, but Light is an incredibly ambitious title. You can kill anyone in the game if you wish, although killing isn’t actively encouraged. Doing so does have consequences, if you fail to hide a body, or are discovered in the act, you’ll have a hard time shaking your opponents. Killing a guard is also ill-advised as each one has a chip that reports their status; they die, everyone instantly becomes suspicious.
Stylistically, this is also one incredibly beautiful game. It may be simple, but already the virtual-reality-esque blue grid appearance, and excellently light field of vision effects are fantastic. Screenshots also seem to show more aesthetic variations that weren’t present in the preview I got to experience.
So far it seems that Just A Pixel and Team17 are onto something truly excellent. So far it’s a mix of sublime stealth gameplay, artistic environments, and an interesting aural experience. The lore is deep, and the adventure is quite text-heavy, but only time will tell if it can keep up such a pace and quality for the full-length of the story.