As an avid fan of tradition 2D platformers, my favourite thing about the uprising of smaller indie titles is that the platformer genre made a return in a big way. Bishop Games’ Light Fall is a well-crafted amalgamation of some of the most iconic platforming mascots of the 90’s with some light puzzle mechanics added it. It doesn’t aim to be the most unique experience, but Light Fall has a tight grasp on what makes a proper side-scroller.
Light Fall has players explore Numbra, the forgotten world. With nothing but a magical box known as a shadow core, players must navigate through the land of eternal night alongside the narrating owl, Stryx. I found myself impressed by the amount of world building that was put into Numbra. Although Light Fall’s story never takes over as the focal point of the game with its unnamed silent protagonist, there’s still a ton of lore for players who are interested. Light Fall has minute long cutscenes in-between each stage but there are also collectibles which contain dozens of short pages worth of text, further detailing the game’s plot for anyone looking to learn more about Numbra.
Light Fall’s are a big part of what makes Numbra a world worth exploring. The backgrounds to each area are filled with detail, making excellent use of different lighting effects. These effects work together greatly with Light Fall’s use of silhouettes for the game’s characters and many objects, like games such as Limbo but with droplets of color to help bring Numbra to life. In addition, Light Fall’s full-length voice acting also serves to further build on the game’s world. Throughout each stage, Stryx the owl will not only give players advice on how to tackle each puzzle but will also take playful jabs at the player when they make mistakes. The narration is charming but Stryx’s voice can occasionally be grating on the ears for certain lines.
Light Fall’s gameplay should feel familiar to any 90’s gamer. As soon as the ability to run was introduced during the game’s tutorial, I was quickly reminded of Sonic the Hedgehog. Not long after, the game introduced a wall climbing mechanic very similar the one found in Megaman X. While simply having these mechanics wouldn’t be so special, it’s the precise and fluid controls that make them work so well.
Thanks to the shadow core, Light Fall doesn’t skimp on original mechanics either. Many of the game’s puzzles are solved by summoning this magic cube to either use as a platform, shield or even a key. The only problem with this is that it stops any of the puzzles from ever needing any serious thought. All of Light Fall’s puzzles simply come down to summoning the shadow core to move on.
Light Fall’s great visuals can at times be a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to identifying dangers in each stage. In most cases anything that players can interact with will be colored but that can often lead to some trial and error testing to figure out what will kill you. For example, one stage has you running through an area of green slime while another will have you dodging extremely similar looking green leaves as they fall. It’s only a slight frustration but it can occasionally mess with Light Fall’s otherwise perfect flow by making players hesittate as they progress. Fortunately, Light Fall does have plenty of checkpoints throughout its stages and with respawn times being nearly instantaneous, death in Light Fall isn’t all that big of a deal.
The true challenge of Light Fall doesn’t come from its actual difficulty but instead by how fast players can move through each stage. If used correctly, the shadow core can help players breeze through entire sections of the levels. Bishop Games clearly intended for this, going as far as adding a mode specifically for speedrunning where players can compete for the best times. For me, this was Light Fall at its best. As nice as the inclusion of its story was, trying to get through each stage as fast as possible is a true joy thanks to the game’s tight controls. The only problem to arise from mastering the shadow core is that it made a number of stages feel pretty empty with nothing to stand in my way while I was basically flying. Light Fall does add in enemies as you progress further but they don’t do much to stop you, especially after learning an attack skill that can be used repeatedly.
What appeared to be a simple puzzle platformer turned out to be a great speed running experience for fans of early platforming. Light Fall may not win too many points in the originality category, but it honors the game’s it pays homage too well. Coupled with a fully realized world, Light Fall has plenty to offer for anyone looking to walk or run through the game.