Secrets in the Dark – Night Lights Review

Developer: Meridian4 // Publisher: Ratalaika Games // Price: $9.99 (Steam) / $4.99 (eShop)
Review copy received from publisher

Night Lights has had quite the journey, beginning as an individual project by Artem Cheranev (@bombocracker) in early 2017.  Due to personal downfalls, Night Lights was sold to Meridian4 and then  released for PC in 2019.  Now, nearly 18 months later, Night Lights has made its way to consoles by way of Ratalaika Games.

Centered around light and shadows, Night Lights is a puzzle platformer that focuses on the journey of a cute chibi robot trying to restore power to its world.  Gameplay takes place through 45 stages divided across three different environments.  The robot must use switches and pressure plates to create electricity that powers elevators, portals and spotlights through each stage in its quest to find a way to restart the electric generators.

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In the Spotlight

Light plays a vital part of the puzzles.  It can hide platforms when shining on them and can be used to find hidden passages in the dark. Light can be found from a variety of sources: spotlights, TVs and even a light bulb attached to the robot’s head. Most of the puzzles involve manipulating the light to get a box to a pressure plate or to find a path to a switch.  The majority of the puzzles were straightforward and required very little platforming.  It wasn’t until the final stages that I felt challenged by both the puzzles and the platforming, sometimes resulting in a restart because of a misstep.

The puzzles seem to be standard puzzle platformer fare, but Night Lights adds a small twist to the genre creating a puzzlevania game.  After completing a series of stages, the robot gains a new power.  These powers require energy to use and are powered by the robot’s internal battery.  Each new power is critical to solving the puzzles in the next set of stages, but they can also be used in previous stages to aid in upgrading the robot’s battery by collecting lightning bolts. For those that are completionists, collect all of the bolts before powering the generator because once the credits roll, there is no going back.

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Creepy Crawlies

Unfortunately, the version I played on Nintendo Switch was plagued with bugs. On multiple occasions, the robot was unable to move in the air after jumping.  Several times, the robot fell through the bottom of the screen or was trapped off the side of the screen.  There was even an occasion when the robot was invisible at the beginning of the stage.  These problems were easily corrected by restarting the stage, but this could cause a significant amount of wasted time depending on when the glitch manifests.  The little bugs can be frustrating at times, especially because it’s a challenge to replicate them so that they can be avoided in the future.  The bugs appeared infrequently, but it happened enough that it should to be noted.

Lost in the Shadows

The art style is abstract with the majority of each stage in silhouette colored in shades of blue.  The backgrounds help build the environment and makes the stage seem alive at first.  However, the muted colors of the background slowly fade away during the action.  The contrast between the dark blue foreground and the lighter shades of the background bring the focus to where all the action is taking place.  Because of this, the eyes quickly ignore the backgrounds, making the art slightly wasted.

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Final Verdict

Night Lights is more than just a puzzle game.  It might be better described as a light platformer with puzzle solving sections.  The puzzles are simple, but the upgrades and platforming help prevent the stages from becoming monotonous.  Additionally, collecting the battery extensions helps break up the puzzles even more.  I found myself spending almost as much time collecting those little lightning bolts as I did trying to power the generator.  Obtaining all of the energy extends this short adventure a couple of hours, but it can easily be completed in an afternoon.  Although the journey of the little robot might require some persistence, Night Lights is a fun adventure while it lasts.

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