PUBLISHER: Wired Productions
GENRE: Adventure, Walking Simulator, Horror
PLATFORM: PS4, PC, Xbox One
RELEASE DATE: June 6th, 2017
Let me start out this review with a couple of facts about this game. First, this game is based on true events that took place during the early years of the 20th century in asylums all over the world. The main character, Renée is not based off of any one particular person, but is actually derived of the many, many people who experienced living in an asylum. Lastly, this game is categorized as a horror game, but it’s not actually a horror in the typical sense of jump scares, ghosts, or monsters hiding behind closed doors. The horrors of this game are the atrocities committed against the individuals who were institutionalized for mental illness.
The Town of Light is the first game that I have ever played that left me emotionally drained and has a story so well told that I played this from beginning to end without stopping.
The premise of the game, you take on the role of Renée, a schizophrenic girl who was institutionalized at Volterra Asylum (Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra) located in Italy in the year 1938. The story mainly takes place in the year 2016 wherein Renee is visiting and exploring the asylum trying to piece together her life there.
The game is mainly a cross between an psychological adventure game and a walking simulator, wherein you mainly are looking for tidbits of information to lead you to clues of what happened to you while you were a patient there. Entering certain rooms bring on a flashback of things that happened to you in the past.
The story delves into the atrocities committed against patients in asylums, mainly ones that were filled with mostly women. From rape, abortion, abuse and lobotomy the story gives you insight into how people with mental illnesses were treated back in the day. You can’t change the past as you watch events unfold, but you can make choices as Renée’s inner voice in certain parts of the game. These choices affect the path the story leads you down, there are times when you think that the choice you make is supportive, but in actuality it has a negative effect on her psyche. There is a total of two story paths and four different outcomes depending on the defensive mechanism Renée will engage to avoid the pain of remembering. To make it easier to see the different story paths without playing the game from the beginning, there’s a chapter selector that allows players to go straight to the points where the story can diverge into the different paths.
LKA definitely did their research when creating this game, from the look of the asylum to the old pictures you find, the feeling of actually being there engulfs you. The choice of music used also gives you an eerily haunting sense of loneliness and despair. The story never leads you to believe that the staff was evil or sadistic, they are just people who thought they were doing the best they could in these complicated times.
From the moment Renée arrives at the doors of the asylum to the end of the game you can hear the regression in her voice, the fear and confusion heighten as you discover more and more of your past. As you play the game you start to feel all of this as if you are really there. I can’t count how many times I cried for Renée and the other patients in the asylum. Wishing I could change the outcome, or just hug her and tell her that everything will be okay. Questioning whether she was really schizophrenic when she was admitted or if it was symptoms of the various situations she was placed in.
Where most people are afraid of the dark, Renée is afraid of the light and what it represents to her. Her one true companion and confidant is her doll, Charlotte. She is her protector and possibly her only friend. The Town of Light is a short game that can be completed in 3-4 hours, but your time within the game will be memorable.
As a person who has been diagnosed with manic depression this game made me appreciate the health care institutions of today. It made me wonder if I could have ended up like Renee if I had been born during those times. The Town of Light tackles some controversial themes and brings awareness to people with mental illnesses. It also makes you appreciate your life and opens your eyes to the stories of patient abuse in asylums. As I stated before Renée is most likely a compilation of the various victims throughout history, but that doesn’t make her character feel any less human.
This game may not be for everyone, but I definitely recommend that every gamer play this game some time in their life. The Town of Light manages to be an incredibly engaging narrative that flows well from beginning to end. The gameplay may be lacking for some due to it being story-driven and not action based, but the story is well worth the $20 price tag. The ending will leave you with many questions, but not in a bad way. You will question the outcome of Renée, the improprieties of our ancestors, and even if health care could possibly end up going back to the ways portrayed in the game.
I would like to thank LKA.it and Wired Productions for taking a chance on developing and publishing a game that touches on a subject that is rarely ever touched upon! To the readers, go out and buy this incredible game! You can buy it digitally from Steam, the Playstation Store, the Xbox Store, or in disc format at your local retailers.