The background to Night Lights’ mysterious night-time world of murky forests, city rooftops, otherworldly ruins and vast underground caverns is not yet clear. Nor indeed is the reason for why our little square protagonist eventually ends up with a light bulb atop his or her oversized head. Perhaps we’ll never know. But there’s certainly something charming about its minimalist art style, evocative settings and laid-back puzzles.
Anyone familiar with 2D puzzle platformers should be right at home with Night Lights’ core mechanics. It’s the usual walking, jumping and climbing, yanking levers, pushing blocks, opening doors, and so on. The aim is to fetch the crystals needed to activate various mechanisms and portals in order to progress to the next scene.
What makes Night Lights a little bit different is that you’re able to manipulate the environment via the medium of light. By toggling, repositioning and rotating light sources, the surfaces and objects that the emitted beams intersect with can be reversibly altered. So segments of ladders, walls, platforms, etc. temporarily vanish, and new paths can be carved out through previously impassable areas. On top of this, illuminating your massive head lets you drop through certain floor sections.
There’s a short but rather enjoyable and polished alpha demo available over itch.io that you can check out for yourself. As an experience, I found it very chilled out and relaxing. You can’t die, and there’s no pressure to hurry. Its concepts are gradually and intuitively introduced within the game in a dialogue-free fashion. The simple shading and outlines of its visuals are cheerful and atmospheric, while the short, looped synth melodies provide a mellow ambiance and a sense of something magical.
The puzzles themselves, while not overly difficult, have a certain elegance to them and do require some thought. The logic of how light beams interact with things is not always consistent, but it does encourage experimentation. Night Lights’ demo is for most part linear, but the blurb promises a more complex portal network in the full game. We are treated to a brief glimpse of this with two interlinked levels, which require you to collect a crystal in one map and then return with it to the previous. So there’s definitely potential here for more open gameplay and for multifaceted and interconnected puzzles.
Impressively, all the programming, art and music has been done by one-man team Artem Cheranev, who has a prior background in browser and mobile games. This is his first major project and the demo is in support of his ongoing Steam Greenlight and Indiegogo campaigns. He’s trying to raise $20,000 to fund the game’s development and aiming for a September 2018 release. However, the campaign goal is flexible, and a determined Artem insists he will finish Night Lights no matter what – though obviously without financial support it’ll largely be in his spare time and no doubt take significantly longer.