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A Light in the Dark (PC) artwork

A Light in the Dark (PC) review


"Stockholm Syndrome Ė The Game"


Sometimes all we really need to make us more aware of the social divides that separate us is a little spot of kidnapping.

That seems to be the tale A Light in the Dark secretly wants to tell. It never really seems sure on what tone it wants to set. Check out its Steam page; it wants to look like a horror novel, full of promised tough choices and violent exchanges. And itís not completely without that. To its credit, it deals with an unpleasant subject matter and then ensures that none of the multiple endings blow all that misery away to fade into a feel-good ending. Certainly not for everyone; itís a tale that demands casualties and that no one escapes unscathered.

Itís the story of Hao-Chen Jiang, who wakes up one morning in a run-down flat with no memory of how he got there, and a massive headache. Also, heís tied to a chair, and thereís some crazy woman waving a knife at him. He gets a few lumps kicked out of him and is the target of a few stab-based threats while the situation slowly clears. Heís been the victim of a kidnapping and is being held for ransom. His father is the CEO of a large company and so long as he does what heís told and the money is received, heís told heíll leave with more or less all his limbs intact.

So starts Jiangís mini odyssey of trying to stay alive. He can work towards either appeasing his captors in the hopes his dad comes through, or he can scour his surroundings for the means to escape. At certain points in the tale, heís given the chance to offer limited interaction with the people or scenery around him, ever searching for clues. He can use this time to try and obtain hints from the dilapidated room, search for possible weapons or escape routes. He could try and talk to the knife-wielding nutjob who dragged him there, trying to weasel out new bits of information or try and gain a little bit of trust. Or, if heís been on the end of a solid beating, he can rest up and refill his stamina bar. If that reaches zero, well, consequences.



There are seven endings to obtain and, while some are considerably easier to find than others, the more complex ones ask you to uncover new information in a sometimes very stringent pattern. Tackling A Light in the Dark without any outside aid means youíre going to run through this game multiple times just trying to figure what you have to do to reach the slightly happier ending or the obligatory god awful one. And that just might end up being an issue.

A Light in the Dark has an awful skip dialogue function. The idea is that youíre going through obsolete text that youíve already read, so you hit a skip button and the game speeds onwards like someoneís hit the fast forward button. That way, youíre not trapped having to read the same exchanges over and over again. That is an option here, but itís less fast forward and more just forward; there is a speed increase, but not one that felt like it was getting me quickly enough to the finicky choices I had to trial and error my way through to unlock those last few endings.

Theyíre not always as straightforward as you might imagine. For example, to get one of the escape endings, you need to make sure you foster some bad feelings towards your kidnapper and take every opportunity to better your means of breaking free. However, doing this doesnít make your kidnapper like you a great deal, and if she dislikes you enough at a certain point, things come into play that make getting that ending impossible. To combat this, you have to be openly compliant until you know that event has ended, and then turn on the John Rambo after that ship has sailed.



Itís moments like this that remind you that A Light in the Dark is a game, and that you sometimes need to game it. Itís a shame it has such a stumble block, because it does so much else right. Itís short enough that (assuming it had a erstwhile skip function -- which it doesnít!) running through it and trying to sleuth through all the paths shouldn't be an issue. Itís a well drawn, well told story helmed by a publisher who have already patched out the few typos that littered their work. Itís not a difficult recommendation if you want to grab a visual novel that leans away from frolicking schoolgirls with ridiculously sized eyes.

Youíll probably find the gameís social commentary to be a little naive, but it tries to balance it out by present differing angles of the same issue. Desperate people do bad things, but what can be done to stop them becoming so desperate? If itís not their fault, then whose is it? Even if youíre blameless, should you shoulder some of the blame if youíre in a position to do so?

Thereís no easy answer, so thereís no easy conclusion to A Light in the Darkís tale. You can acknowledge that the world sucks and try and make it a little better, or you can do what you can to make it a little bit worse.

2.5/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 15, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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