I had the pleasure of playing Light Fall with Bishop Games at PAX South back in January, and even though I only got to play the first chapter, I was already hooked. Light Fall is a 2D platformer with a twist: you’re in control of an artifact called the Shadow Core, which can be placed below you in midair, controlled freely for a few seconds to scout the area ahead, be shot as a weapon, or appear in front of you as a shield. Sprinting through the first world with the Shadow Core letting you jump four times in a row without hitting the ground was addicting, and the dark aesthetic was another huge draw.
Light Fall takes place inside the world of Numbra, where darkness shields the… Kamloops… from the outside light… alright, so maybe Bishop Games doesn’t have a knack for naming things. “Numbra” is just “night” plus “umbra”, your player character is named “Nox”, Latin for “night”, and “Kamloop” was probably ripped from a first draft of a Dr. Seuss book. Names aside, however, Bishop Games has created an interesting world and story here. In typical modern-fantasy style, you find yourself in a strange world with your memory wiped, with only a cranky old owl and the Shadow Core to traverse through the land.
You soon find that Numbra was attacked by a force called the Eternium, which turned once-populous villages into desolate wastelands. Stryx (like Styx, get it??) the owl guides you down the path of the gods, explaining the five divinities that once ruled the land but have evidently been forced into hiding. After the completion of chapter one, you discover that the boy you play as is actually Nox, the trickster God, and the Shadow Core is a divine artifact sought out by the Eternium.
After the Act One Reveal™, you begin your quest to find the other four divinities. Three come easily, but Nox’s best friend Luxanna, Goddess of Light, is nowhere to be found. I’ll spare you the spoilers, as there’s a fairly interesting twist near the end, but you spend the rest of the game traversing deeper into more dangerous reaches of Numbra to get her back.
precision platforming challenge, Light Fall is no walk in the park. Hardly a single level went by when I didn’t lead Nox to dozens of grisly ends, but since the game is built around this kind of difficulty, I rarely got frustrated or felt like giving up. The act of dying and respawning barely takes a second, so I didn’t even have enough time to get tilted over whatever mistake I made before I was already repeating it.
While you can play on a keyboard, I’d highly recommend a controller. On top of having more range of movement with an analog stick than the WASD keys, wall-jumping and bouncing off the Shadow Core midair are much more fluid with a controller. I played on a PC, but as the Switch version has the same controls, your choice of platform boils down to personal preference, it’s the same either way.
As with any precision platformer, the controls will make or break the game, and fortunately, Light Fall has no issues passing. Nox isn’t too heavy or too floaty, he’s highly responsive, and chaining Shadow Core jumps in midair is addicting. Every level has collectibles and shortcuts for those who prefer to slow down, explore, and dig up Numbra’s background, but you also have the option of speeding through the levels as fast as you can.
Speaking of speeding through the levels, Light Fall boasts a speedrun mode where you can race ghosts and skip over all those pesky cutscenes and dialogue that get in the way of your domination of each level’s leaderboards. This clearly wasn’t just shoehorned in, Light Fall was built around being able to race through each level as fast as possible, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in future GDQ events.
Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. There’s a small handful of times where you’re dropped directly into a deathtrap faster than you can react, and it’s one of the few times when death actually feels cheap, more like trial and error than a test of skill. Furthermore, there’s a very challenging level at the end of the game where you’re made to traverse through a decently long gauntlet with no respawn point. If you die at the very end, you have to go through the previous three sections again. Once you’ve mastered those parts, it’s more tedious than anything. It’s not a fun and clever challenge, it’s an NES-era padding technique.
I’m a huge fan of the art style. Numbra’s a land shrouded in darkness, so the game adopts a very dark aesthetic with gorgeous backgrounds. Everything that has a chance of killing you shines brightly as well, standing out brilliantly against the night. I could go into further detail on how it builds on “light is not good” and “dark is not bad”, but for now I’m content to say that they’re just pretty.
The music, sadly, doesn’t match up. It’s not bad, there wasn’t a point where I felt like playing the At the Price of Oblivion album over it, it was just forgettable. I was stuck on the final stage for almost an hour, but if you asked me to hum the music from it I’d be completely unable. Otherwise, however, the sound design was great, when there wasn’t music playing there was a nice ambiance adding to the spookiness of the level and the few bosses there were had audio cues to telegraph their attacks, which helps immensely.
While Light Fall isn’t the greatest precision platformer out there, where the gameplay falls slightly short its made up for with its aesthetic and story. My only misgiving is with the price and the length, because I didn’t scour the land for collectibles or practice over and over to become a speedrunning god, I finished the game in just under seven hours. If you’re a completionist or a speedrunner and Light Fall seems like your cup of tea, I’d recommend it immediately. If you’re a more casual player, however, I’d consider waiting for a sale.
Length issues aside, Light Fall was fantastic. Hard but not frustrating, interesting but optional lore, a gorgeous but not distracting aesthetic, I’m honestly surprised this is the first project coming from Bishop Games. A part of me wants to see them return to Numbra in the future, Light Fall focused on Nox and Luxanna, which leaves another three divinities that they can explore further. Maybe next time they’ll give us a more open adventure game, a Legend of Zelda to Light Fall‘s Super Mario Bros. Whatever it will be and wherever it might take place, I’m looking forward to it.
This review of Light Fall is based on the PC version of the game. A review copy was provided.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.