I love the look of glass, and Gleamlight has built its visual appeal by embracing a stained-glass art style. With no HUD and no cutscenes, the game allows you to interpret what you see into a story while discovering the platforming mechanics on your own. However, unlike a piece of beautiful glass, its appearance is not enough to carry the rest of the game.
You start with a shattered glass sound and by claiming a sword in an interesting looking world. Your character is a dark figure in red robes and a witch’s hat, and you’ll move to the right in the 2D environments with only a halo of light around your character to view your surroundings. This often leaves you unable to see the world around you, so you’ll be taking some leaps of faith that will lower your health.
Each room you enter blocks you from moving forward until you find and destroy the red orbs keeping it locked. As you look for them in the simply designed levels, there are hazards to avoid and enemies to kill. For the limited length of the game, the variety of enemies is fine, and the designs are good.
Platforming and a little bit of combat are the foundation of gameplay, and the controls are extremely simple. In the beginning, you’ll be limited to a very floaty jump and a standard sword attack. More abilities will be earned as you beat bosses.
The boss fights range from OK to a couple being terrible. This has to do with how you acquire and lose health in the game. I don’t want to spoil it, but, for some boss fights, I was able to stand in one place and swing my sword until the boss died. Other fights are more interesting and required more strategy.
When you die, the autosave system ensures you start in the same room you were reduced to little shards of your former self. I found myself getting hurt more often because I was jumping into darker areas of the map than just my lack of skill, although that’s always a contributing factor. The game itself can probably be completed in around an hour, depending on how often you die.
After the credits, you can replay the game from the end back to the beginning, but you’ve seen everything the game is going to show you. It does change the feel and look of the game a little, but there are other changes as well. Monsters you killed will now respawn if you die, and the game is harder. There are a few new bosses to challenge you on the return trip as well.
Even if they are the same bosses, beating them will sometimes unlock a new power, including the ability to fly upwards to continue your march back through the game. Combined with a dash and double jump, your reverse run gives you more options to meet the challenge, but it’s more of a necessity to be able to continue than a choice made to make the game more interesting or introduce something new.
I can’t tell you what the story was about. There are things that I could interpret in certain ways, but I’m not much for flowery symbolism and grasping for meaning. Maybe I’m just dense (very likely), but I couldn’t see an underlying narrative anywhere. It doesn’t have to have one, but it does help cement me in the world.
That world does have a nice visual design with the stained-glass effect. There are some small destructible elements in the level that allows some of the glass shards to break off and fall. I would have liked a little more variety in the music, but it sounds nice, especially the light and airy tracks.
Gleamlight is a simple game that’s over very quickly, even if you keep playing after the credits. It looks and sounds nice, but those are its strongest qualities. Outside a few poor design choices, there’s nothing inherently bad with the game. It’s competently made, but it doesn’t do anything that makes me want to recommend it either.
Gleamlight PS4 Review
- Overall - Not Bad - 5.5/105.5/10
Gleamlight’s stained-glass art style and generally good music are it’s best qualities. The platforming and combat are fine, but a couple of the boss fights are more disappointing than frustrating. The game is also very short, and replaying it backward only highlights some of the flaws you encountered originally, even though there are a few new bosses to encounter. It’s not a bad game. It’s just not very good either.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.