Indie Preview Review: One Upon Light
Once upon a light, there was a quirky glasses wearing, messenger bag toting, white lab coat character known only as: The Scientist. He likes long walks in dark mysterious laboratories, believes Justin Bieber is working for his evil arch nemesis, and thinks inventing gadgets that allow you to interfere with photon particles is the bee's knees.
He has a tiny little problem, though, and in One Upon Light you'll have to help him solve it. This indie puzzle game by Ice Cream Truck Games (The Singapore University of Technology and Design Game Lab) puts you in the shoes a scientist who wakes up one fated day to find his lab covered in darkness, and himself sprawled haphazardly on the floor. As The Scientist explores what has become of his beloved lab and team members, he comes to the strange and scary realization that all the light in the lab is dangerous. Every time he walks into a beam of light it causes him ungodly pain.
In order to figure out what is happening, you must guide him along the lab and avoid the light. I had the opportunity to play a press demo release of the game, which will release around September.
The display is a top-down view which shows you the top of your scientist's head and current section of his lab. There is a black and white theme to the game colors, leaving the lab and our scientist in monochrome like a classic TV show. I love this because it fits well with the light and shadow concept of the game, allowing you to immerse yourself more into the contrast of the two.
The graphics themselves have a great artsy, contemporary feel that plays around with shapes. Obviously, a lot of that has also to do with the light/dark concept of the game, but I feel like it is done in a way that fits together really nice and is well balanced. The art style of the game sets the tone of the story before you even reach the narrative.
"Light is a danger."
The mechanics of the game involve using simple controls to guide your geeky guy along to a folder which signals the end of the level. Ice Cream Truck Games doesn't make this complicated for you. After the scientist wakes up, you are given simple graphic and word instructions for movement (arrow keys). When you come across a beam of light, a deep pain comes upon you. As the levels progress, you are introduced to new mechanics and elements of the game. Eventually you not only have to work around the light, but interact with objects to reach your destination.
I love the simple instruction elements of the game. From the short demo I played, I was never confused or forgetful of them. The difficulty of each level advanced in a normal, natural way. The highest level I played was 8, and it was more challenging than the rest but not impossible. It was enjoyable without being boring from being too easy.
"Meet our protagonist, thus far known as The Scientist (we're open to name suggestions). He's sensitive to light and to comparisons with Harry Potter (he believes he was sporting this look before Harry got famous)."
The storyline of the game is not thrown out right away. That would be too easy. Fitting for a puzzle game, the story of The Scientist and his lab are gradually revealed as you move through the levels. You and the scientist solve it together.
I felt like this made the mystery of why he was flopped down unconscious on the cold metal floor all the more interesting. You don't really want to know right away anyhow, now do you? The Scientist echoes thoughts and comments allowing you insight, but anything more would be like reading the ending to a book first and then going back to the start.
The only thing I struggled with was reading parts of the narrative quickly enough as they came up on screen; there were some times when it disappeared too fast. Since this is not the final build--only a demo--I'm not overly concerned this will be an issue in the actual release.
The team comes from Singapore. Ice Cream Truck Games is used informally, which is why you will see SUTD everywhere. Apparently a love of games and ice cream goes hand in hand, and honestly who can blame them. I can't help but picture the group in a large ice cream truck, with little Jamie Ks and Katy Hollingsworths standing in line to get a scoop or two of their favorite games.
The team consists of:
- JUSTIN KANG - Game Designer
- CHUAH CHONG YUNN - Game Programmer
- NG XI HUI - Game Programmer
- WONG YI - Game Programmer
- ANG YI XIN - Game Artist (2D)
- SIMON STRAUSS - Game Artist (3D)
- BENJAMIN TAN - Quality Assurance (QA) Tester
Indie Preview Review: Rating 8
I feel like this is a great game overall from what I have played, and so I have tentatively rated it an 8. Looking at the three categories--graphics, game play, and storyline--Ice Cream Truck Games did an excellent job of coming up with a unique, fun, and quality puzzle game. I'm excited for the release in (hopefully) September, and can't wait to give an updated review then!
Authors Notes: The views depicted on Justin Bieber are of the author's alone, and not The Scientist. Please do not hold this against him, as we haven't discussed whether he has good taste in music.
Are you an Indie dev looking for someone to feature your up and coming game? I'd be happy to put your team and game in my next Indie Preview Review! Feel free to private message me on my Facebook Page, here. All reviews are approached with an open mind and given honestly.