Review – Gleamlight

Gleamlight is a perfect example of a game that takes the popularity of another and mimics it just enough for a trailer to fool you. When I first saw Gleamlight, like many others that I know, it reminded me a lot of Hollow Knight. The art style, character designs, animations, and even bits of the gameplay shown seemed familiar. Taking inspiration from an amazing game like Hollow Knight is fine, but what DICO did here was copy everything besides the heart and soul.

Gleamlight is a basic 2D platformer that goes for a minimalist style in everything it does, even in its story. There really is no setup, no characters to develop, and really no reason to do anything you’re doing. If I didn’t read up on what the game is, I would have no idea because nothing in the game tells you. I’m not saying I need exposition, but better games will weave you a tale through its enemies, bosses, and level designs without needing to directly tell you. Gleamlight does none of this.

Gleamlight Mysterious Stranger

Who is this mysterious person? You will not find out.

From what I could gather, there is an evil or something that is taking over your stained glassed world and you’re destroying it? That’s about all you’re going to get out if it. You go through poorly designed levels dispatching basic enemies and finding glass podiums to unlock the next area. None of the rooms are impressive and most are designed to be frustrating.

There are a small handful of bosses you’ll encounter that don’t add any “wow” factor to the gameplay, and for the most part aren’t anything to worry about. However, this is how you will obtain new moves like a dash, triple jump, power attack, and more. These moves definitely add to the gameplay, but before you even know it, the game will be over. Enter DICO’s second game for inspiration, Nier: Automata.

Gleamlight Sword Memories

As you defeat bosses you’ll unlock additional moves, but you’ll need to come here to see what they are.

You’ll beat Gleamlight’s first playthrough in about forty-five minutes depending on general skill level. However, if you go back in to continue your game you’ll notice something different with your save file. Continuing will start you at the final boss and you now have to work your way back to the beginning. Things won’t be exactly the same as before, some enemies become harder and bosses will change a bit. Once you complete the game again, continuing the save file will put you in a state where you can’t continue at all.

This is because DICO now wants you to actually delete your save file and start over for a different ending. I’ve tried multiple times to get a different ending after deleting the game, but I always ended up with the same one. A Steam forum user suggested you had to complete the game without killing any enemies to get the good ending, but it just didn’t seem worth it. The idea is a good one, but there is no motivation or intrigue to see that ending. I don’t even have any idea what any of this is for, yet it wants me to do multiple playthroughs.

Gleamlight Color Design

There are moments of beauty in some of the levels.

The visuals are actually one of the only redeeming aspects of Gleamlight. It has a really nice stained glass art style that brings a lot of style and color to some areas. The level design can become a bit convoluted with all the dark outlines and blended in aesthetics. However, the general designs of the enemies are mostly visually appealing, but are inconsistent with the world. Everything here is made of glass, even most of the enemies, but some are part machine. It just seems odd.

One aspect of the visuals that ties into the combat is with health. Both the player and enemies will gain health landing attacks. Hitting an enemy will add to your life and you will become brighter, while the enemy becomes darker and muted. It is an interesting mechanic in itself gameplay wise, but also provides visual information of you or an enemies health. However, since life is absorbed through attacks, the most combat scenarios are fairly easy.

Gleamlight Absorb Color

Defeating enemies will grant you colored orbs that will restore your color and life.

Sound design is a bit lackluster, but generally it’s okay. Nothing terrible, but nothing that will actually stand out. The metal machine enemies don’t have any punch with or grinding gear sound effects. The combat noises all sound the same no matter glass or machine. The soundtrack does have a couple of nice tracks that fit the current boss fights, however, nothing that will get you to listen to it afterwards.

Gleamlight is a game that could be something great, but squanders it at every turn. It’s on the right track by taking inspiration from a couple of great games, unfortunately, it never comes close to matching them. There is no purpose to the game conveyed through tone, music, characters, or text that will urge you to continue. If I had not been reviewing this, thus feeling obligated to flesh out the game, I would have stopped after the first forty-five minute run-through.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Gleamlight has a really nice stained glass art style that really pops in some areas. The level and enemy designs are good, but they do lack variety. I like the way your character and enemies lose color as they lose life, it’s a nice visual effect.

Gameplay: 5.0

Gameplay for the most part is serviceable for an action platformer and there are a decent amount of upgrades. You only obtain life by attacking enemies, which is a neat idea, but makes the game far too easy.

Sound: 6.0

General sound effects don’t impress with a lackluster, but serviceable sound design. Mechanical enemies don’t have the punch they should have with a metallic grinding noise, and attacking them sounds the same as everything else. The soundtrack has some decent tracks in it, but nothing that will stick with you.

Fun Factor: 2.0

Gleamlight tries to go for a mysterious action adventure with no spoken dialogue or hand holding. The story attempts to evolve similar to Nier: Automata with multiple playthroughs and even needing to delete your save file to continue. However, you just end up playing the same short forty-five minute campaign front-to-back multiple times with no engaging story.

Final Verdict: 4.5

Gleamlight is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Gleamlight was provided by the publisher.