Lightmatter Review

Matter of light and death.


When Virgil’s voice first spilled through the intercom system I thought Lightmatter was going to be a long game. 

His berating, sarcastic, sneering and, at times, shouty voice had me initially worried. There’s a plethora of indie games out there which use a narrator to guide you and when that character is condescending, it can get annoying incredibly quickly – particularly for puzzle games. It’s good casting, then, that Tunnel Vision Games managed to snag David Bateson for the role, or as you may know him, Hitman’s Agent 47.  

Bateson does a decent job in playing the part of Virgil, a scientist and CEO of Lightmatter Technologies who clearly has little concern for his employees’ – or your – safety. 

You’ll ascend through the ranks of inconvenient facility visitor to potential scientific assistant and eventually aspiring saboteur, as Virgil guides you through his deserted laboratory which has been recently ravaged by some sort of cataclysmic explosion. Said explosion’s left the lab in an unusual state where one step into the shadows could turn you into black gloop. Enter the puzzles.


With shadows as your enemy, light becomes your salvation in this first-person puzzler. You make your way around the facility by manipulating light sources to create viable paths through dark rooms, damaged walkways and the occasional bundle of clothes which you suspect, until recently, were snuggly worn by an employee. 

You’ll use your space wisely and hope to eek enough light out of your source so you can get to the next illuminated safe zone, avoiding the menacing darkness and death. However, the shadows are largely inconsequential as Lightmatter has a forgiving checkpoint system where any slight slip into the dark will have you plonked straight back to where you were without much change to the puzzle or the amount of progress you’d made in it. It’s slightly annoying but short loading times mean it’s never arduous.    

Where Lightmatter’s intelligent design starts to shine, though, are the simple puzzles and how the light mechanics have been implemented. For the first ‘set’ of puzzles, you’ll move lamps around, placing them in what you hope is the right area and face them in the correct direction. It’s a simple mechanic with the further away a lamp is, the larger surface area is lit up as the light stretches to fill the space. It’s an easily communicated tool as anyone who has seen the sun knows how light works. 


The puzzles largely stick to this mechanic and never need a complicated solution. They’re often short and can be solved within a few moves and yet, will often have you scratching your head for a few minutes, wondering how to get to the next room. A couple of problems have that beautiful situation where they feel impossible initially only for you to figure it out and then wonder how you ever got stuck on it (also, there’s a vending machine which meows when pressed. Too early to suggest GOTY!?).

What’s truly impressive, though, is Tunnel Vision Games’ recognition of good pacing. For their debut entry, the few hours you’ll spend in Lighmatter Technologies is never boring or unfairly hard. Just when moving a lamp to solve problems starts to get tiresome a new, light-bending mechanic is brought to the fore where you manipulate beams of light. 

Another clear indication of this team’s talent is the art style. Not only does the slightly minimalist, cartoony style allow lighting to stand out, it also creates a real warmth to the light – an almost comforting feel. For the most part Lightmatter has a drab, monochromatic aesthetic which doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is. The style allows colour to really pop when the designers want it to and allows you to navigate the areas easily.


Lightmatter isn’t a beacon of perfection, though. The game has some consistent technical issues like a constantly dipping frame rate, it crashed to the point where I had to close the game’s window and there was even an instant of falling through the floor.  

Yet, Lightmatter is a generally well-crafted experience which gently eases you into more difficult challenges and switches up the puzzles just when you’re getting irritable. Tunnel Vision Games have created a finessed puzzler with superb pacing.

[Reviewed on PC]