The “walking simulator” genre, which focuses mainly on exploration and narrative, has slowly become more popular in recent years, especially with the release of critically acclaimed titles like FireWatch and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. While most of these titles offer a lighthearted experience with simple, interesting, and potentially emotive narratives, LKA’s The Town of Light tries to do things differently by telling a darker tale that touches some sensitive subjects, such as mental illness, inhumane treatment and rape.
Based on real events, The Town of Light is set in the Volterra Psychiatric Asylum, which was shut down in the late 1970s. The game is played through the fictional eyes of Renée, a girl who suffers from the symptoms of mental illness. After the Asylum was closed, Renée returns there to search for answers to many questions about her past, while she explores and uncovers the place where she spent most of her youth.
Similar to other “walking simulators”, The Town of Light tasks you with exploring the decaying hallways of the abandoned asylum and interact with the environment in order to learn more about Renée and her past, whether through her narration or flashbacks. The puzzles and interactions you need to complete in order to progress are simple and pretty straightforward, and even if you are having some trouble trying to figure out what to do, the game will drop some hints to make things easier for you. While you can just go along with the story, the game offers some incentive to explore, as you will come across rooms and files that further expand and flesh out not only Renée’s backstory, but also the asylum and its dark history.
Like I said before, the game offers a darker tone than most other games in the genre, and the developer had no problem to show and touch some sensitive and controversial subjects as you witness all the abuse Renée has gone through during her time at the Asylum. Whether through images or flashbacks seen in first-person, you will witness what Renée has experienced, such inhumane treatment from the nurses, subjected electroshock therapy, being restrained and kept sedated, rape, among several other horrible situations.
While the game doesn’t feature multiple endings, there are some chapters in which upon finding diaries and medical records of Renée you will need to interpret and decide what happened to her. For example, there’s one occasion where based on your choices Renée will either conclude that her mother cares about her and will return to get her out of the asylum as soon as possible, or that her mother hates her and she will never come back to get her. It’s an interesting gameplay choice given her mental illness, as it not only adds some replay value to see how the game plays out based on each decision, but also gives you multiple perspectives on what might have really happened.
Although The Town of Light isn’t a horror game and doesn’t have any jump scares, the game features a haunting setting and atmosphere that combines perfectly with the abandoned asylum. Visually, there’s also a great attention to detail, as the crumbling walls, deteriorating objects, painted walls peeling help create a sense of abandonment and decay. It’s just a shame that the game is plagued with a few performance issues with textures, framerate and long loading times.
While it’s not exactly a horror game, The Town of Light is a powerful experience that explores some of the horrors and dark sides of humanity. The game tells a depressing and deep history, and by the end of it, players will undoubtedly empathize with Renée after all that’s she experienced. It’s also a story that motivates players to think the different events that occur, as Renée mental illness and the story choices in certain chapters leaves room for different interpretations, even if these don’t change the ending. If you are not bothered by some of the sensitive subjects, The Town of Light is certainly a worthy experience if you are a fan of the genre.The Town of Light was reviewed using a digital code provided by Wired Productions. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Deep and impactful story based on real events.|
|Story choices add replay value and gives way to different interpretations of the story.|
|Great atmosphere that fits the game’s theme perfectly.|
|Story choices don’t affect the ending.|