The Town of Light PS4 Review
12 March 1938. Renée, 16 years old, is ripped out of her world, locked up and deprived of everything. Her only fault was that she didn’t know what her place in the world was. The Town of Light begins with our main character going back to Volterra, in Tuscany, entering an destroyed and abandoned asylum where she was once incarcerated. At first, players do not know what happened or why Renée is there, but everything is answered and the true story is revealed as the player progresses. Let’s get into this mystery.
Getting in the character of Renée is interesting, because players will experience her mental illness. While investigating the asylum, you’ll hallucinate, hearing voices or feeling pursued. On first arrival to the asylum grounds, it introduces a beautiful locale, but one that gives off a sense of being weird and uncomfortable as you take foot into the abandoned building. Feeling insecure is certainly part of the game’s ambiance and The Town of Light totally gets that across to the player. The game doesn’t try to bring a sense of horror, so it’s not one that features jump scares or supernatural themes, but I could not help have a sense that I was followed by ghosts or that in the next corner something was going to jump at me, and all that was because of how great the sound design is. The asylum itself is virtual recreation of real-life Italian asylum, so the developers got the essence and portrayal of that that place spot on.
As great as it was being in the shoes of Renée to explore such a location, the actually game itself is really tragic and sad. The only thing that got me out of the experience was the camera, as when I wanted to do a slow move, the camera felt like it was forcing me to move – it didn’t felt natural – and if I used a little more force to push, it speeds up movement so you miss the little details. I changed the sensibility, as that helped a little, but it didn’t make it as if my movement in the game was natural. The Town of Light has notes and photographs hidden within furniture and other locations, but the camera made it harder than it was to specifically look at them.
While exploring the asylum, they are some puzzles to discover, but the puzzles are too easy, coming across as if they were included just to fill a gap and make the game feel complete. There was one moment in the game where I was betting that something was going to jump out at me. It’s a scene where Renée is looking for a friend in the kitchen. While she’s investigating, she keeps saying that people will find her and she needs to hurry, then when you get to the puzzle, she gets more nervous and that in turn made me nervous as well, even when I knew that nothing was probably going to happen to me. It’s a testament to the great atmosphere the game manages to engulf the player in.
This re-release has received some adjustments, and players will notice some of them when coming from that original PC release. The reworked voice-overs are better, helping to get players into the game’s mood along with the tense ambience. The echo of you footsteps, the wind and the unsettling silence all make it believable that I was inside an abandoned asylum, and playing with the lights out and a headset transports players to Volterra. Also, the original soundtrack is great. The piano works itself into the audio on the exact moment it’s called for, and was a great match with the game’s theme.
While The Town of Light has some beautiful graphics, the cutscenes and the diary art work are done in a cartoon style. I initially thought this was something that would pull me out of the experience, but actually helped with it. The style made me feel creeped out, making the game darker and the story even more depressing without hindering the the experience. There are some really weird things going on in Renée’s mind, and when the game starts explaining why she’s like that and what happened, it emotionally got to me.
This is a game that shows the horror that humans can create without getting into the supernatural, and knowing that this is based on a real place is what makes experience that bit more eerie. The game comes across as a sort of fictional documentary to portray the life of an asylum patient. There isn’t much of a reason to replay the game, other than trying to divert down the different paths in the last few chapters, but the first time experience with The Town of Light was thoroughly entertaining, offering a look into the topic of mental illness to alert players, such as myself, to be more aware about how it affects the life of people.
The Town of Light is a beautiful title, with great sound and reworked voice-overs that improve on the original release, but it needs harder puzzles, some work on the camera and maybe be a bit darker to give the flashlight some purpose. Besides that, The Town of Light accomplishes what it promises, and is a game people need to try, because it is something different to experience within the video game medium.