The rain never stops in this moody, laborious puzzler.
The rain never stops. The sun never shines. The shadowy, dystopian metropolis is suffocating and oppressive, darkness pricked by tiny glowing lights. And there’s a mystery to solve…
This sounds like the setup to a neo-noir Blade Runner tribute, but Flood of Light from developer Irisloft is a pensive, quiet puzzle game with a futuristic anime aesthetic. Perpetual rain has flooded Hope City and its inhabitants have fled. You play as a slightly creepy-looking girl whose origins are a mystery and who has the power to absorb orbs of light from lamps scattered throughout the world. Use these to light the sun stones, drop the water level and – eight levels later – save the city.
Your journey begins on the rooftops of the ruined city, gradually descending into industrial factories and laboratories. Along the way you’ll read electronic diary entries from a mysterious Dr. S, describing a young girl and a ‘Guide’ meant to be the saviour of the city. Perhaps you are that saviour? You’ll also awaken a number of robot friends along the way who further flesh out the story and offer tips. The washed-out visuals and tinkling piano soundtrack together create a muted atmosphere that matches the gentle gameplay, which consists solely of puzzle solving.
Absorb light. Redistribute it among lamps. Light up sun stones. Move onwards. You’ll create constellations as you go that become increasingly complex, and the water level softly lapping at the bottom of the screen is a constant hazard. Later levels introduce moonlight and moon stones to be lit, tasking you with keeping the types of light separate. Too often, though, you’ll reach a dead-end with no way of progressing, forcing you to restart the area from scratch. It’s symptomatic of a game with inelegant puzzle design. It’s not an overly taxing game, but the absorbing and redistributing of light requires a constant back and forth, and it just doesn’t do enough to change up the gameplay over its short three-hour run time.
Even in that time, though, the game feels laborious. The gameplay isn’t helped by awkward controls: the game originally released on PC and was clearly designed for mouse control. The Switch version doesn’t have particularly intuitive touch controls, while its button inputs feel awkward in the hand. What’s more, the game doesn’t explain its key concepts particularly well – sometimes even after you’ve encountered an obstacle for the first time – which leads to some early frustrations.
Flood of Light has an evocative mood, but its narrative is ultimately as lifeless as its central character. The gameplay centres on a single concept that’s mundane, fiddly and gets tiresome quickly. It’s not a bad game per se – it’s just not very exciting.