Reducing a game down to its very basics has its benefits and drawbacks. A benefit is that the learning curve is straight to the point and the game is just easier to understand as a whole. A negative is that you lose the ability to convey the subtle nuances and complexities of a game with a reduced approach. It’s a drawback that a lot of games using a minimalist approach have to deal with.

These games have to find a way to convey limited information, but make sure the player is capable of comprehending it. This approach is meant to cut out fluff and needless elements that bog down things in the triple-A space. It has made these types of games quicker and more efficient. That’s what a game like Light is trying to be. It’s a pixelated stealth game, where all of the characters in the game are boxes.

You play as a blue box who has a severe case of amnesia. In the opening level, the player will read a yellow newspaper that sets the story of the game in motion. Your amnesiac character must uncover the truth of who he is, and exactly what kind of vile things an evil corporation has done to you, as well as others. It’s an entirely hackneyed set up that does nothing more than provide context for your actions.

The game itself is like if someone took the map screens of Metal Gear Solid or Hitman, and then turned them into a videogame. It’s a reduced version of what those stealth games are. Your objectives in any given level of Light revolve around your ability to sneak, steal, and hack. The sneaking is straight forward: you move around in a top-down 2-D space, with a cyberspace vibe to it all.

White boxes are neutral NPC characters, who paint the idea of 'hiding in plain sight,' and red boxes are the enemies of the game. When spotted, these characters will rush at you to try and shoot you dead. You can sneak up and kill these characters, but that has its own risk and rewards. Beyond its impact on the scoring system (it’s a stealth game, where no kills equals more points), killing one of these enemies sets off a timer before reinforcements arrive. This forces the player to accomplish their objective as quickly as possible. 

To improve your chances you can steal uniforms, either from the dead (again, you want to avoid doing this) or from a point on the map. The red boxes will still notice you as a fake if you get close, but it cuts the range on their vision cones. This allows you to get closer to an enemy’s line of sight before being detected.

The other thing in your arsenal is your ability to hack. It's as simple as finding a highlighted computer source that puts you into the network. When you are in the system, with a click of a button, you can open doors, shut off cameras, and what have you. The stealing part of the game? That’s as simple as picking up necessary files, letters, or newspapers before you can get to the levels exit point.

The decision to bring a stealth game down to its bare-bone basics provides a concise stealth gaming experience. It plays exactly as it should, providing you with a series of rooms that are active puzzles that test your reflexes as much as your brain. The game's sharp level design tasks you with adjusting to more dynamic patterns, and forces a level of uneasy patience on the player. These levels create tension-filled sequences that also reward aggression, if you’re not into the setting high-scores.

One of the best segments in the game comes around the tail-end, when you have to navigate every corner of the map to get to your destination. Specific hacking points are placed on the far ends of the screen, so you can disable specific cameras, and open certain doors. Thus, you are tasked with finding multiple ways to slip past the enemy, undetected. It also provides a clever use for your hacking mechanics, as you can lock doors behind you to block your adversaries from entering certain areas.

Levels like this are few and far between, and Light is but a brief affair. Plus, there is a downside to all this reductionist design. Yes, Light showcases the player what can be gratifying about a proper stealth game, but it comes at the expense of the complexity the genre is known for.

Everything Light does is bare bones stealth design, to the point where it outlines all the drawbacks of a stealth game as well. Even during the most difficult segments of the game, the player is asked to merely be patient enough to learn an enemy pattern. Once you know the pattern, you know the solution, and then it’s a matter of procedural actions to get to the finish line.

If the game offered more levels that eventually opened up to provide multiple ingress and egress points for any given area, the game would have more going for it. For that matter, it could probably have used more solutions to any given area other than the binary 'sneaking vs. killing some folks' to get to the finish line. 

Light: Sneak – Hack – Steal is plenty entertaining on a basic level. The core mechanics work as intended and go hand-in-hand with the visual direction, as well as a pretty catchy soundtrack. It’s just perfectly fine being average as a stealth game experience. A fun, functional, and fleeting affair that shows you the basics of how the stealth genre ticks. However, it will never provide any moment of sheer brilliance.  

Final Score: 5/10

 

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