Adventure Lamp

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Ryan Davis for PC, Mac, and Wii U, originally released in 2016.
Adventure Lamp is a puzzle platforming tale of a plucky archaeologist named Simon who has been dispatched on a mission to study an ancient temple. Unfortunately, just as Simon is setting out on his expedition, a cave in cuts him off from his equipment, leaving him with nothing but his trusty headlamp to see him through the mysterious structure, and possibly dashing his hopes of ever receiving a promotion.

Simon’s adventure takes him across five themed areas, from the ancient temple, to fungi-filled caves, across blustery mountaintops, and eventually into darker and more dangerous territory. There are more than 100 levels in all, although they are each meant to be completed in under 30 seconds (and some far less). Still, there is a good deal of variety with new challenges introduced every few levels.

The game centers around Simon’s jump mechanic… The player is able to make short hops to mount low platforms, or he may hold the JUMP button to charge a huge leap, but doing so causes Simon’s helmet to fly off, often plummeting off the bottom of the screen, although it returns to his head after a few seconds. This tumbling helmet can be used to activate switches – and put the player in peril in darkened areas – but the player can toss the helmet as well.

Tossing the helmet is used in a variety of puzzle solutions, mostly to trigger distant switches, as it bounces off of walls, tumbles down shafts, and slides along conveyor belts. The player can quickly toss the helmet to the left or right, and he can also stand still and toss the helmet upward to hit targets above him, or downward to clear a path or weigh down certain switches.

The helmet can also be used to combat enemies, although avoidance is required more often than direct confrontation. Simon is not terribly adept at combat, nor is his helmet an ideal weapon, as it can be difficult to target mobile foes, and overshooting a target means a few seconds of vulnerability while the player waits for the helmet to return (or it may be picked up immediately if the player walks over to it).

Enemies come in a number of red slime-based forms, with basic jumping enemies that are hard to hit but often easy to lure to their doom, followed by some flying enemies, and later shielded foes that cannot be killed but only pushed back. There are also a number of obstacles in the form of spikes and floating enemies that are only temporarily destroyed, adding a time factor to certain challenges.

The game’s primary challenge comes in the form of puzzle platforming environments that continuously demonstrate new ways to iterate on the player’s core mechanics. The opening area acts as a tutorial to allow the player to grow accustomed to the basic controls, which are slightly unusual compared to that of other platformers. In these areas, players must regularly use both kinds of jumps, and they will learn that squishing down to make a high jump also allows them to slide under low overhangs. Players must be wary of bottomless pits as they make their way to the exit ladder at the end of the level, and the exit is visible from the entrance in many levels.

Moving into the second area, the player is introduced to blue switches that create glowing blocks which are used as platforms, allowing players to cross gaps and reach higher platforms. At first, the player may simply touch these buttons and walk safely across, but he is soon introduced to platforms that disappear after a few seconds and switches that can only be reached with this helmet. Also, since blue platforms are solid on all sides, the player must be careful to position himself properly before activating them to ensure that he can get on top of them once they appear.

Players must often run through a series of obstacles and mount multiple blue platforms before they disappear, or use their helmet to hold down a button temporarily, as the helmet returns to Simon’s head after a few seconds. There are also moments where the player must ride across spinning platforms, lure enemies into pressing buttons that he cannot reach, and use beams of blue light to send himself flying into the air.

The third area introduces wind and sees the player dealing with the aforementioned challenges along with the added component of being pushed to the left or right. Later, wind speeds increase and begin changing directions during the level, requiring some precise timing, particularly when making high jumps. This area also introduces red beams which work oppositely to the blue ones, causing the player – and his helmet – to be pulled toward the ceiling.

From here, things only get more dangerous as the player finally enters some areas that are so dark that the helmet’s light is required to see his surroundings. This makes things all the more challenging when the helmet must be tossed, or when the player makes a high jump and loses it temporarily.

These areas are filled with turrets, many of which are activated or deactivated with switches, and the player must contend with the fact that he can only view a portion of his surroundings. Red and white lights hint at the locations of dangerous and safe areas. Fortunately, Simon’s helmet can be used to destroy projectiles – although it’s basically useless against rapid fire turrets – and it protects him from a single hit from above, knocking off his helmet in the process.

Eventually, all of the player’s skills are put to the test in a final area that mixes conveyor belts with rising and falling lava, huge upward wind gusts, tricky switch puzzles, numerous dangerous obstacles, moving structures that emerge from below, and some incredibly challenging platforming sequences.

While the final areas are more challenging than those that came before, puzzle platforming veterans should expect to pull through to the end, possibly in only one or two sittings. The game is saved at the end of every level, and most levels are quite short, allowing the player to pick up from where he left off at any time.

Completing the game unlocks a New Game+ mode, allowing the player to re-experience the game from the perspective of a new character with different gameplay mechanics. With this new character, some previously-visited levels become more challenging or require more thought to come up with a solution, while other levels are actually significantly easier. And, if you make it through the game with this character, a new variation is unlocked.

Adventure Lamp was developed by Ryan Davis, who is based in the United States in the Midwest. The game got its start as a Ludum Dare #32 entry, with the theme of “an unconventional weapon”, to which Ryan continued to add content and enhance. Many of the game’s opening levels originated in the Ludum Dare entry. Music for the game was composed by Fat Bard, who was also the composer for CrashLands and Blitz Breaker.