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Posted by GG Goblin On September - 7 - 2020

A mysterious 2D action adventure set in a world of stained glass.

Stained glass is beautiful, but it is best looked at from a distance. From a distance it is easy to see what the creator envisioned for the piece, but when you get up close, it is nothing more than a collection of randomly shaped and coloured pieces of glass. Gleamlight, from DICO, is a 2D action adventure that takes place in a beautiful world of stained glass. This alone will be enough to convince most players to hop into the action, but much like stained glass, when you get closer to Gleamlight it is not as impressive. Also, it just so happens that you need light to enjoy stained glass, as in a dark room stained glass may as well be concrete as you cannot see it.


Gleamlight is one of those games that keeps the player guessing with everything. When it comes to the story, this is no big deal as many games will slowly drip-feed the story and let the player fill in the gaps as they progress. However, in Gleamlight the drip-feeding almost doesn’t exist and the player is left to make their own mind up about what is happening. Little hints are dropped through the achievements that the player gets along the way, but this is so minimal that trying to fill in the story is pretty much impossible. It doesn’t really have any effect on the gameplay, but as the game is designed to be played more than once, it would have been nice to have some kind of connection with what is going on on-screen, rather than having to make everything up.

This hands off attitude to the development of the game and leaving the player to deduce things for themselves carries over to other aspects of the game. There is very little direction given to the player in how to play the game or what they need to do. Much of it is fairly easy to work out, especially for those recognise the genre. Run, jump, avoid environmental hazards and fight enemies. More on how all of this works in practice in a moment, but there are still plenty of things that are not explained, such as the health of the character on-screen. This is indicated by how colourful the character is, with damage causing the character to eventually become grey and then die. It is a fascinating idea of how to give the player the information they need without an intrusive UI, but the reality is that it makes it all but impossible to precisely judge how much health is remaining. Throw in the fact that the game is incredibly dark, and it becomes even more difficult.

The beautiful stained glass world that Gleamlight takes place in is almost wasted as the player’s character gives off just a small amount of light, with pretty much everything else bathed in darkness. It looks really pretty when it can be seen, and the glass actually plays a part in the levels as it can be smashed in a satisfying way, but the darkness prevents much of the appreciation of the glass. The darkness also plays a part in how difficult the game is. Precision platforming is part of the appeal here, but it has to be noted that the movements of the little character is not especially precise, which can be frustrating in itself. This is amplified by having to quite regularly jump into the darkness and hope that there are no spikes or enemies where the player lands. Of course, the more accomplished players will twitch at the very last minute and avoid any injury, but for most the landing will result in a frustrating loss of health. It feels a little cheap if I am honest.


The combat with the regular enemies is uninspiring, largely due to how slow the little fighter swings their sword. It’s not too challenging either. This is partly down to the health mechanic in that the player regains health when they perform strikes against an enemy, meaning that they can generally gain more health than they receive damage and thus come out on top. This mechanic also makes encounters last longer than perhaps they should. However, boss battles will come up that offer a little more challenge and actually prove to be the highlights of the game.

New abilities will be unlocked as the player progresses through the game, but in the hands off style that Gleamlight has adopted, none of these are explained and so once again the player will have top work it all out for themselves. Then, as if by magic, the game is over. Capable players will be able to knock this out in little more than an hour, which may seem horrific given the asking price. However, that is not where the game ends as the player will go back in and work through levels backwards while facing off against some slightly more difficult enemies and new boss battles. Still, it would have been better to have just continued the game as I wouldn’t be surprised if most players simply stopped at the credits and never returned.


It is difficult to tell whether this is exactly how the developers envisioned Gleamlight, or if concessions have been made along the way. The game is not as short as many players will think, but it is still quite short, and the lack of any explanation can leave players with no desire to drop back into the game. The platforming lacks precision, and the combat is slow and unchallenging for the most part. The boss battles are really cool though, and the stained glass world is beautiful, when it can be seen. Genre fans looking for the next big hit may have to keep looking, but those who are attracted to the beautiful stained glass world may get some short-lived enjoyment from Gleamlight.




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