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Oscura: Lost Light Review
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Developer: Chocolate Liberation Front
Publisher: Surprise Attack Games
Release Date: February 24, 2015
There have been quite a few platformers that make use of the visuals made popular by Limbo — shadowed foreground and muted backgrounds accentuated by lighting to exude a dream-like atmosphere. This new one developed by Chocolate Liberation Front and published by Surprise Attack Games keeps to that concept faithfully enough. Oscura: Lost Light is the third of a series of platformers, the previous two being Oscura and Oscura: Second Shadow.
As the title suggests, this game is all about the light that has been lost due to some sort of mishap. From what can be gathered from the story, through cut scenes with dialogue in text and no voice acting, you play as a goblin-like apprentice of an old guardian who keeps an eye on a mystical lighthouse that shines on the rest of the world. He taught his charge to never touch the Aurora Stone on top of the lighthouse, so of course the little fool touches it one day. Unfortunately, dark forces start to reclaim the land afterwards, but not without you having obtained the last bit of light from the lighthouse. Your master then tells you to undo the damage by collecting parts to fix the broken lighthouse.
The story may be basic and derivative, but the character designs are not bad at all. They may just be silhouettes, but they do exude personality despite having minimal voice acting. As for the gameplay, it’s pretty good when you first try it out, especially if you’re a platforming fan. It’s quite similar to A Walk in the Dark by Flying Turtle Software in both visual style and some of its gameplay mechanics. There is no combat; you have to jump over obstacles and avoid enemies along the way.
You have your double jump and the ability to use crystal shards, like one that makes hidden platforms materialize and another one that breaks through weak obstacles, as well one that causes reverse gravity. The platforming challenges are bound to give you some serious resistance. They range from the traditional spikes and water (you can’t swim here) to swinging clockwork and turning cogs that seem to conspire to kill you. You’ll have to know when to use either single or double jump, as well as which crystal to use and how.
It does require some finger gymnastics due to often having to use a crystal while jumping. Holding a face button while pressing another to jump may be difficult for some, but you can remap that button to a trigger button to make it easier if you wish. While the option to rebind controls is a good thing, they tend to not be labeled properly in the menus, so you’ll have to feel your way around if you don’t know which one is Axis 7 or 8 or whatever they even mean.
Movement can feel slippery at times, especially on even the slightest of slopes as you slip down if you happen to become stationary for even a while. Edges are tricky too, so you have to be extra careful or you might find yourself falling off into water or lava if you’re not careful. Not being able to look down to see where you can land doesn’t help either, resulting in cheap deaths. There are also other issues regarding the physics, including odd collisions and how objects don’t seem to fall straight down for some reason.
The double jump covers a good bit of distance, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage since you’ll need lot of precise movement. But even with that, a lot of trial and error is needed through various parts of the game, with some of which having an obstacle that may have not been placed as well as expected. For instance, there are times when you can block a laser-like trap with a platform materialized by your green crystal, but there would still be a sliver of that fatal light that gets you as you pass through.
If you die along the way, you respawn at the last checkpoint you crossed. The platforming can be pretty challenging in some parts, especially since you may have to hold a button while jumping and moving at the same time. However, you have unlimited lives, so you can just try again and be able to make it to the finish soon enough. Some may see this as considerate, while others may think its a cop-out so that the more casual crowd won’t be discouraged by the difficulty.
For those who are not that enthusiastic with platformers, this may wear thin rather quickly. However, it’s very easy on the eyes and plays quite well, despite the cheap deaths. Players are encouraged to relax, take their time with each obstacle. and not sweat dying too much. Checkpoints are plentiful throughout the levels, so it’s not like you’re playing I Wanna Be the Guy. With a little patience and persistence, you can eventually figure out how to get past everything and finish the level.
Despite its misgivings, Oscura: Lost Light is still looks and plays nice for the most part. If you can get over its little niggles and don’t mind dying repeatedly, then it’s a fun platformer that beginners can start from and veterans can still appreciate.