The creative minds at Valve have a long and proud history of not finishing their trilogies, and like the roommate who is fed up with constantly reminding someone to do the dishes, Tunnel Vision Games has stepped up and done it for them.
Lightmatter is a first-person science fiction puzzle game and a good one at that. The player starts the game awakening in a facility of some kind that is in the process of collapsing. Red emergency lights illuminate what appears to be a server room. As you progress you’ll meet Virgil, the head of Lightmatter Technologies. Bringing all the condescension of a robot that loves to test, Virgil will then try to guide you out of the facility while maintaining everything is fine. At this point, the game really begins and the player will navigate from room to room while staying in the light as shadows will kill you. Along the way, you will find video recordings hinting at the true reason the facility is crumbling and what lightmatter actually is.
Truth be told, the destroyed facility the game takes place in does an excellent job at conveying the story but is very different from the testing facility of the Portal games. The environment is detailed and, because of the decision to use cell shading, the difference between light and dark areas is very clear (particularly helpful with this game) vs. the shades of grey we might be used to from Aperture Science. The iconic portal gun and long fall boots are nowhere to be found and the most complicated piece of technology you hold is a glorified flashlight. Despite all of that you would be hard-pressed to find a review that doesn’t compare it to the Portal series.
While Virgil does quite compare to JP Simmons’s Cave Johnson, his snarky attitude and the games self-aware humor is well appreciated. The developers even managed to sneak in a joke at the expense of Aperture Science. The puzzles require both thought and good timing to be solved much like the Portal games. The game does a fantastic job of introducing a single concept and then letting the player naturally expand on it from there. Most appreciated is the games ability to tell a story in a self-contained way. While on the surface the Portal comparison almost a little to prevalent and unfair, the real reason it is used to compliment the developers at Tunnel Vision Games for their unique way to tell a story and build a complicated game with simple components. The best-written reviews will always pale in comparison to actually playing thing, and the folks over at Tunnel Vision know that as well. That’s why they’ve released the first hour of their game totally free to play on Steam. I encourage everyone to try it.