Linelight – Review (PS4)

In the world of animation, life itself begins as a line. One line turns to several and eventually, through the creation of shapes, forms, and geometries, an entire figure is formed.

When one looks at it, it is rather astonishing that many great things started as a line, and subsequently grew into something far more. Lines may seem simple, but they also represent the most important part of any creative project. Lines represent a birthplace of ideas. When an idea isn’t working, creators can go back to using lines, redraw something, and polish an idea until it meets the creator’s needs.

Linelight is an example of this idea. In an age where puzzle-based video games are increasing in popularity, the need to stand out and be an engaging experience is incredibly important but also very challenging. Linelight comes from New Jersey-based developer Brett Taylor Interactive, and his game has certainly become a bold, inventive, and incredible take on the genre.

Linelight has no story, no narratives, no characters, or an impending world to save. Players are instantly transported to a soft, ocean-like screen and begin as a small, glowing dash. They can control this dash in accordance with the path ahead of them, so players can move up, left, right, and down. The objective of each level is to follow this path and solve the puzzles ahead to progress further.

Additionally, players will collect stars and other secrets that they uncover along the way. However, there will be a variety of obstacles within this puzzles, such as rival lights and enemy lights. There are no weapons to destroy these particular “enemies”, but you can outsmart and outmaneuver them. Some of these light move automatically on their own and require precise timing. Other lights move in correlation to your own movement, and therefore, will require even more precise timing and maneuvering to outsmart. Players are shown how to play through the first stage and the learning curve is quite easy. Following that, players are free to play across six huge worlds, with many secrets and hidden puzzles lying within each world.

Linelight achieves what many games strive for, but few accomplish, and that is the ability to introduce a new mechanic with neither a steep learning curve nor a breezy gaming experience. On the surface, a puzzle game involving lines may sound either complicated or far too easy. However,  Brett Taylor has managed to make a very accessible puzzle game with challenges that are fun but engaging. The puzzles strike the balance of challenge, as in its a puzzle that makes you think, but a puzzle that doesn’t break you. This is aided by the sharp, responsive controls as well as the clear presentation. It’s a simple game that has gone through an incredibly keen degree of polish. The game looks and feels smooth.

Linelight is both an engaging and relaxing experience that hooks players in to keep going. I found myself wanting to continue straight until the world concluded. For every one puzzle I completed, there was another I had wanted to pursue. I found myself continuously playing, and each time I failed, I had wanted to keep trying until I achieved the level. Each puzzle kept surprising me, as Linelight slowly, but gradually, introduced new ideas and mechanics to the puzzle solving. I was amazed that something so simple could become so engaging. Mr. Taylor truly invented something remarkable and innovative in the design of Linelight.

What further enhances the gameplay experience of Linelight is the incredible visual and audio presentation. As this is a game about lights, every light shone on-screen feels soft but vibrant. Each light’s hue glows throughout the screen, against a warm navy-blue background.

Accompanying the visuals is a rousing jazz soundtrack that keeps the player upbeat during their playthrough. For some reason, I found myself being reminded of walking along 7th Avenue in heart of Time Square in New York City. As a resident of New Jersey myself, I have occasionally visited Manhattan from time-to-time, and what I always take in astonishment is how this island is teeming with life. The bright lights, the moving vehicles, the droves of people on the streets, all create this profound sensation. The sensation is movements and life, and the fact that at each moment of observation, every single person you see is moving onwards to a completely different destination from yours.

Linelight evoked a sensation of liveliness with me. Perhaps, metaphorically, as the game has players have their light going to different points within a world and discovering new paths.

After completing the sixth world, players are left to replay levels and discover their hidden secrets. This gives Linelight a relatively short length for dedicated players but pacing oneself is a good way to enjoy the game. Despite its length, there is plenty of enjoyment and accomplishment to be had. Every new puzzle discovered feels like unearthing a treasure and every one accomplished feels like a small reward. It is that engaging “one more time” hook that makes for fantastic gameplay design, and Linelight is ripe with it.

With Linelight, Brett Taylor has given a new life to the puzzle genre, as I foresee more puzzle games being encouraged to use geometric shapes to tell their stores. Linelight also stands to say that the simplest of ideas still matter in an industry big on ambition. Simple ideas still work, it’s just a matter of how you use them to discover new paths. From its engaging control and gameplay to its vibrant presentation, Linelight is a very fulfilling experience.