Review – Bright Lights of Svetlov (PS5)

Title card of Bright Lights of Svetlov

Bright Lights of Svetlov is a short, linear, narrative-driven game where you play from the perspective of a family of three people in a small industrial town in Russia in the mid 1980s. You play through small chapters following short snippets of their everyday lives, focusing on mundane, step by step tasks with minimal guidance. Although, while performing these seemingly menial tasks, you’ll experience the mysteries and misfortunes the family encounters. It presents itself using a beautiful, yet simple backdrop of the inside of your apartment. 

Bright Lights of Svetlov Apartment Building

Enjoy the little fresh air you’ll get!

In Bright Lights of Svetlov, you’ll play through the perspectives of Anatoly, Tamara, and their daughter Nadia during the mid 1980s in Svetlov, in the Soviet Union. Each of the short chapters has you playing as one of those three protagonists. Each chapter’s intro briefs you on the protagonist you’re going to control, as well as some additional information such as their age and when exactly in the 80s this particular part of the story is being set. As you play, you’ll learn more about these individuals, their relationship between each other, with each chapter focusing on a small moment of their lives. You’ll also learn about the unusual hardships they encounter through small dialogues, monologues, and pieces of papers lying around the house. 

Overall the story is simple, and since it’s all based on true events, it made everything feel more impactful. I won’t go into detail at all of what it’s based on, because finding out at the end is the whole point of it. Controlling your characters and completing the tasks needed to get through the chapter is extremely simple, due to the fact that you mainly walk around inside and the immediate vicinity of your apartment and interact with objects using mostly one button. The typical progression of a chapter can be summarised into: introduction, what task you’re supposed to complete for the day, completion of the task, end of chapter.


I wish my kitchen looked this clean.

The tasks usually consist of normal everyday things, such as taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or checking out what your daughter Nadia has been up to in your garage. It’s very step oriented, and most of your game time will comprise of you walking SLOWLY around the house, hoping that you are doing the steps in the exact order the game wants you to. This is important because, in most cases, your character can only “hold” one thing at a time. 

For example, when you want to clean the paint that you accidentally spilled on the floor, you have to: 

  • Get the rag from the balcony
  • Go to the restroom to make it wet
  • Go back to the spill and find out it’s better wiped with some alcohol
  • Find the alcohol
  • Go back to the spill and wipe.

It’s honestly not that bad, but we walk slow. Also, with the controller, the camera turn speed is too sensitive. This makes it more difficult to find the small hit box of where you can interact with an item which could sometimes lead to you missing it entirely. This would not be an issue with a mouse and keyboard when playing it on PC, but there are some porting mechanics that could use more fine tuning. 

Bight Lights of Svetlov Sunset

Watching the the sunset.

Speaking of porting, just another small thing I noticed was the tooltip for the only other button you need to press besides X, which is R1 but the tooltip says “press F”. All of these are minor gripes and did not really hinder my enjoyment too much, I just felt that it needed mentioning. 

Bright Lights of Svetlov is well voice acted, which helps in the telling of the story. However, the game provides you with very little in terms of allowing you to fully immerse yourself into the narrative, because many of the written newspaper clippings and notes are not translated. Also, once you’ve picked it up, you have no way of reading it again because you don’t have an interactable inventory menu or journal that can help you compile and revisit what you’ve read. 

Bright Lights of Svetlov Russian Newspaper

If only my eyes could easily translate.

The atmosphere is by far the best thing about this game. It has a really simple setting: an apartment in a small industrial town in the old Soviet Union. Even within the apartment, you only see the inside of your own apartment and the few minutes you spend outside of it. The area is simple, but well lit, creating a somber and relaxing feeling. Sounds are minimal, but have decent sound effects that accompany it. I often just stopped what I needed to do in order to take it all in and appreciate the moment. I would recommend this game, if only for this reason.

Overall, Bright Lights of Svetlov was an interesting, albeit short experience, taking only a little over an hour or so to complete. It wasn’t exactly a “fun” pasttime, but more of a simple but impactful story worth unveiling, all backed by some serene visuals and atmosphere. Despite its limited runtime, I would still recommend picking this game up, but maybe wait for a small discount further down the line.

Graphics: 8.0

Simple, yet beautiful and often serene. Definitely the biggest selling point of this game.

Gameplay: 6.0

Minimal gameplay, mostly walking back & forth. Complete step-by-step task in each chapter playing as one of the three different characters. Short and narrative driven game of approximately an hour or so.

Sound: 6.0

Good sound effects to create atmosphere and immersion. There was very little in terms of background music. 

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s not a game meant for “fun”. It felt more like a well-told story worth experiencing, all due to some clever writing and great atmosphere.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Bright Lights of Svetlov is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Bright Lights of Svetlov was provided by the publisher.