I reviewed The Town of Light when it launched on PC last year. Since then the developers have spent time polishing up the game to bring it to console. In my original review I described the experience as absorbing yet difficult to watch. It’s not the sort of game you want to revisit but I was interested to see how it had transferred to console.
The Town of Light is inspired by real-world facts and events. It’s set in late 1930’s Italy and uses a meticulously recreated Volterra Psychiatric Asylum as its location. This was a real asylum and one of the biggest in Europe. It was finally shut down in the 1970’s after the Italian government passed a law instructing all asylums to close and give patients their civil rights right.
While much of it is based on research and historical facts, the story actually follows a fictional 16-year-old girl named Renée. She suffers from the symptoms of mental illness and is looking to find what happened to her in the past. This is done by exploring the Asylum and surrounding area where sadly, she spent most of her youth.
Watch the The Town of Light: Enhanced Edition launch trailer below:
The Town of Light is described as a first-person psychological thriller. Being set in an Asylum you’d be forgiven for expecting a full-on horror game but there are no jump scares, psychotic enemies or combat here. Instead the horror comes from the story and knowing that you’re in what was a real place and the terrible things they used to do to patients actually happened.
The harrowing subject matter, which includes sexual abuse, rape and torture, make The Town of Light a very difficult game to play. It’s definitely more of an experience than a game. It’s also one that stays in your mind long after you play and it’s hard not to be affected by it.
Your path through The Town of Light is mostly predetermined and very linear. The majority of your time is spent walking around, exploring the Asylum and surrounding grounds, listening to Renée’s thoughts and examining items. The gameplay is simple, there’s no inventory, health bar or weapons. At most there are light puzzles but these are usually prompted by Renée herself. She often points you in the right direction and explains what needs to be done next.
Based on what she says you might need to work out which location to head to next. Looking on the handy Asylum maps on each floor shows you where you are and where the many other rooms are located. There is actually very little freedom to go where you want as the game often restricts your movement to a small number of rooms. When you are expected to move on then you’ll find a new door has opened.
In between the walking parts of the game the story is progressed by using hand-drawn images. Many of these are quite disturbing and are mostly used to handle the toughest material. Other parts of the game place you in slightly interactive hallucinations where you might only be able to look around a tiny amount. These do give you a hint of the feeling of what it must have been like to be drugged up on meds and restrained.
At some points in the story you do get to make some choices. Your decisions do have a slight impact on the story and the direction in which it goes. These elements add a little replayability to the game should you want to go through it again.
View some screenshots from The Town of Light: Enhanced Edition in our gallery:
The game will take most people around three hours to play through the first time. If you’re really keen to explore every single thing (or get really stuck) then you can probably add another hour or two to that figure.
As well as console, this enhanced version of the game is also available as a free update to PC players. The updates include new puzzles, extra interactive elements and new content to support the story. Most noticeable are the improved graphics and reworked voiceover. The changes are definitely for the better but they don’t massively change the experience.
Despite having played through it last year I was disappointed to still find parts of it confusing. Also on the Xbox One version I played for review there were times that the framerate noticeably took a dive. Hopefully the developers will continue to improve these areas.
The Town of Light: Enhanced Edition remains an emotional game that is tough to play through. There’s still little challenge to be found and definitely nothing which can be described as fun. Overall the improvements are worthwhile and it’s a very well crafted experience.
The Town of Light: Enhanced Edition was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Wired Productions Developer: LKA.it Release Date: June 6, 2017 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also On: PS4, PC/Steam