SPOOKTOBER 2019 Entry #1 – Next Entry: World War Z
It’s back! The 3rd installment of Spooktober!
The great jack- o’- lanterns in the sky know that I need this special occasion. All around me, people are more fascinated by the prospect of Christmas coming up than they are Halloween. Various shops already have their reindeer ready. It’s absurd, and I refuse to stand for it until after November 5th, so let’s get these creepy festivities out of the way, starting with Bring to Light!
This is the latest title from Canadian developers, Red Meat Games, and– Now that I think about it, any developer with “Red” in their titles usually has a stab with horror. Red Barrels with Outlast, Red Hook with Darkest Dungeon, Red Limb with Rise of Insanity. In that case, the “Color meets adjective meets horror” attempts are 1-1-1 in terms of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at the moment, so let’s see how Bring to Light breaks this tie.
You play as Guy Guyverson, or rather Lady Ladyperson. It’s unknown exactly who or what you play as, but that’s irrelevant, as the subway you were riding on has derailed. Inexplicably, you are the only survivor from this wreck, with bodies nowhere to be seen. A lack of assets could be the easiest answer, but for the game’s sake, let’s just say that it’s because the monsters in the subway have eaten everyone else and are looking to eat you. Who or what are they, and what are their origins? That’s unknown… it will continue to remain unknown, as I stopped playing halfway through and with good reason, but we’ll get to that.
It’s a walking simulator. Don’t let other reviews fool you into thinking that this may be some sort of tense game of cat-and-mouse. This is a walking simulator first and foremost, except once in a while when the pots in your kitchen will fall. You have a cracked phone working as a pathetic flashlight, and as you continue forward, you’ll come across random underwritten notes addressed to nobody.
First impressions weren’t strong. Your first taste of horror will be when a door slams right in front of you while in complete silence. Your second taste is– and I’m not kidding here– a random pixelated .jpg of a fucking skull with glowing eyes. What is it, and how does it connect thus far? It doesn’t! I may not have finished the game, but in all honesty, what chases you strays from the path of this .gif with a Photoshop edit.
The cover the game uses has this sort of red-eyed ghoul on it, but then some others use what looks like concept art for the Licker from Resident Evil 2. Then you also have to deal with these weird spider variants, both their child and adult versions. There’s possibly more, but they don’t come across as much of a threat, mostly due to some uncaring A.I.
Every once in awhile, you’ll be stuck in a space where one of these various monsters are patrolling the area. You’ll usually have to find an item, like four goddamn fuses or mirrors to reflect light, and you’ll notice quite quickly that the monsters can’t actually stray from their predetermined path. You can poke a stick at them and aggravate them as much as possible, but no matter what, they simply can’t be bothered chasing you after a short while.
There are ways to destroy them as well, and that’s with the use of flashlights and lanterns, but I’ll be goddamned if it isn’t a pain in the arse. They’ll be set on fire, sure, but they show no signs of continued degradation and will continue at the same speed of pursuit. Eventually, they will die, but half of the time, you won’t even be sure if the game is working as intended, which makes sense, if you came across the physics.
Fun fact: In the world of Bring to Light, nobody can stay still on stairs. They’re slides with sharp bumps, and if you stay still or crouch on them, then you might even hear your character do a little “Whee!” as they slip down. I’m kidding, of course. I’m making my own fun after going through under-designed areas.
Bring to Light’s level design is actually kind of fascinating. Red Meat seems to have taken their visual cues from the benchmark of F.E.A.R., but I don’t think our protagonist here has a VK-12 in their pockets. Every room is so dry and drab. Litter and ruins seem meticulously placed and built, like it’s the cleanest apocalypse ever. Signs of death and strife are non-existent, and all you can rely on is the voices.
The sound design almost works really well. Every once in awhile, voices will pierce your surround sound in a way similar to Hellblade, but in all honesty, it comes across more like Limbo of The Lost. These voices seem more invasive than possessive and are dedicated to simply popping in randomly, as opposed to being a part of the environment. It’s hard to explain, but their presence is Red Meat’s only card to make you feel threatened, and they take too bloody long to truly elevate said presence beyond audio distractions.
At some point, the game eventually decides to funnel you down into more interesting prospects, and by that, I mean they ditch the horror and turn it into Portal 2. Now you’re suddenly doing light-beam puzzles with Aztec mirrors and positioning, and I honestly couldn’t tell you where the switch-up was. Thematically, it makes sense, but it’s a harsh juxtaposition when compared to the harrowing nature the game attempts to evoke.
It all fell apart after an hour or two into said puzzles, however. They eventually become more complex with different light beams and switches you need to activate, and they’re stimulating. They’d be more stimulating if they actually worked though, and this is where I stopped playing.
After playing the same puzzle for 70 fucking minutes, tweaking these stupidly thick light-beams from mirror to mirror with as minimal movement as one can get from a drifting thumbstick, nothing was working. The light beam necessary to move forward kept missing the final piece of the puzzle by a pixel, and I was becoming befuddled and annoyed.
I decided to break my own rules and searched up a video walkthrough to see exactly what I was doing wrong, and the answer? Nothing. I was doing nothing wrong, and the game was simply having a bit of a fit. It was just a simple glitch that frustrated me severely, especially when it persisted after two separate restarts. Well fine then, Bring to Light. If you won’t do your job properly, then neither will I.
I just don’t understand Bring to Light‘s intentions. It’s both overwritten and poorly designed. It’s both under-dressed and overly eager with aesthetic switch-ups. It tries too hard and not hard enough to startle you. It’s like 100 different people shouted a different answer to “What horror game should we really evoke in our new title?” and the results are 50 percent Amnesia, 20 percent Alone in The Dark, 15 percent Spooky’s House of Jump Scares, and 15 percent Layers of Fear. The results are mildly pitiful, to say the least.
In the end, I don’t know what the hell Bring to Light was supposed to be, and I’ll honestly never find out. Its most interesting development isn’t even one revolving around terror, unless you thought the laser cubes from Portal 2 were hiding something. Even its sound design becomes more of a burden than an actual threat or imposing entity. It reeks of under-development, and I apologize for not kicking Spooktober into gear with the right type of game.
Man, now I feel like a tit for wasting Sagebrush so early.
This review of Bring to Light was based on the Xbox One version.
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