Light Fall

A game by Bishop Games for PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
Light Fall takes place in the world of Numbra, a shadowy land with a mysterious past. You take on the role of Nox, the shadow trixter, and one of five beings who once ruled over the land… but time has passed and a mysterious force has overrun the place, imprisoning the people and growing deadly pink crystals across the landscape. You are accompanied by Stryx, a cantankerous old night owl who narrates the tale and offers insight into the events preceding the game. Together, you venture through the Lunar Plain, the Marshlands of Sorrows, Vipera's Forest, and the Unknown Depths in an attempt to discover what has happened to the land and how to restore it.

The game is a platformer with a heavy focus on retaining momentum. Players are free to take things slowly if they like, but there are lots of opportunities to speed through the environment, and some challenges require players to move at a high speed while dodging obstacles and enemies. The game also includes a dedicated mode for speedrunners, complete with online leaderboards. The focus on speed is emphasized by curved landscapes that dovetail into one another, silhouetted parallax background and foreground layers that relay a sense of speed, and a strange object called the Shadow Core, which lets players create platforms in midair.

The Shadow Core allows the player to summon a solid box out of nowhere, which floats in the air. Throughout the game, the player learns different ways to control the box, allowing him to overcome more complex challenges. At first, the player can only create a box directly beneath his feet. When combined with his high variable jump and running speed, players are able to dash across the landscape, leap into the air, and summon box after box to hop and skip across wide swaths of deadly thorns and spikes.

However, the player is limited to summoning four boxes in succession before he must touch solid ground again. As such, players must be aware of their surroundings and ensure that they are moving quickly enough to cross gaps, or use the correct timing to make multiple vertical leaps to reach high platforms. Failure of any sort generally spells instant death – or at least falling down to an earlier area – but checkpoints are frequent and the player has infinite lives.

In addition to these maneuvers, Nox is able to wall grab, wall slide, wall jump, and jump up vertical surfaces, making him a capable platforming hero. Thoroughly exploring the environment leads to alternate paths through the levels (some of which are shortcuts for speedrunners) and to numerous secrets. Throughout the land are people who have become trapped in crystals, which Nox can break with a projectile attack he learns early on. Players can also uncover hidden areas where they must overcome challenging obstacles in order to recover “memory shards”, which must then be escorted safely back through the environment to the nearest checkpoint.

Checkpoints have indicators showing the number of people to be rescued and the number of memory shards. By bringing a memory shard back to a checkpoint, text appears in the air which offers additional story elements that outline the lore of the world. Unfortunately, the text scrolls at a maddeningly slow rate, and there is no way to speed it up, effectively killing the pace of the otherwise speedy game. So, you can either stand around and wait for the text to crawl slowly up the screen, or ignore it and dash forward.

Every now and again, the player is teleported away to a tutorial area which explains new uses for the Shadow Core. In the first instance, the player learns to summon the box beneath his feet. Then the player learns how to summon the box in midair and move it around independently for a certain amount of time, which can be used to scout ahead (the box passes through walls) or trigger certain objects in the environment.

In one case, the player moves the box onto the back of a boat and uses it as a propeller to push himself forward, and in other areas, the box is used to activate triggers or rotate objects in the environment to clear a path forward. You can also hold the box out in front of you to block lasers or create a stationary platform above you, and you later gain the ability to summon a box in front of you in midair, allowing you to reach greater heights.

The projectile attack allows players to deal with the small number of enemies that populate the game world, most of which are flying critters that drop down and move across the screen. However, most challenges center around environmental navigation and see the player outrunning falling ceilings, jumping between spinning wheels, and dashing away from crumbling platforms. The projectile is used mostly to clear obstacles on the path forward, and it is used in one of the boss encounters to cause indirect damage to the boss as you hop between moving platforms over a spike pit.

Players are expected to master the movement controls by the end of the first chapter, which concludes with a lengthy and challenging platforming sequence. In this sequence, the player must dash between insta-kill waves, dodge spikes, and land on small platforms with perfect timing without the safety of checkpoints. While the difficulty level is fairly low for much of the game – especially given that levels can be completed at the player’s own pace – these end-level sequences stand as make-or-break points for less skilled players. The game consists of about a dozen levels spread across four acts. Unfortunately, the game terminates in a tepid overdrawn final encounter that makes minimal use of the skills or momentum-driven gameplay on which the rest of the experience is built.

Light Fall was developed by Bishop Games, a studio based in Quebec City, Canada and founded in February of 2014 by Ben Archer, David Dion-Paquet, and Mathieu Robillard. Art for the game was created by Vanessa Desbiens, and music was composed by Jean-Philippe Tessier. This was the studio’s first release, which was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign.