Author – James Chip (@james_chip_rpg)
Where to Buy – https://jameschip.itch.io/light
I have always wanted to be a lighthouse keeper. Alone, surrounded by the sea, wrapped in a thick wool sweater. Perfection. But nooooOOooo! Someone had to go and automate all the lighthouses in the US. Jerks. What am I going to do with all these sweaters?
At least I can live out my fantasies with Light, the solo journaling RPG. Much like other Wretched and Alone games (such as Bust Blockers), Light makes use of a deck of cards to generate 1-6 daily writing prompts which direct the journaling experience. The cards also tell you when to pull a block from a Jenga tower which adds tension as the game progresses day by day and card by card.
The central conceit of Light is that you, a keeper, find yourself alone in the midst of a storm and, despite not having your compatriots, must keep the lamp lit so ships don’t run aground. The island is somewhat mysterious, with odd happenings cropping up more frequently as the game progresses and your level of mercury exposure rises.
The only way to “win” the game is to draw an Ace of Hearts and, by luck, roll enough sixes which symbolize the storm’s abatement and the arrival of rescuers. I pulled the Ace of Hearts as my very first card and…it still didn’t save me. And not because my tower topped early, either! Through a combination of my godlike Jenga skills and terrible luck, I manage to go through the entire deck without upsetting the tower or getting rescued. I’m not sure if this is an aberration or if the game does not require enough pulls throughout to make the threat of failure a real possibility.
But I did not play this game to win or lose; I played it to create a unique (and spooky!) story, and on that front the game delivered. I had an engaging time looking up what the cards meant and trying to synthesize them into a coherent story. Well, semi-coherent. Remember that mercury exposure I mentioned earlier?
As you pull cards, your keeper becomes exposed to mercury and begins to go mad as a result. Initially, I wished the rules around mercury exposure were more robust. Players are tasked with counting how much exposure they have but the game never fully explains how to do this. Does your exposure go up by one every time you pull a card that mentions mercury? Does the card have to mention that you touch it? Though I was irked by this lack of clarification at first, as I played through I realized it affords the player a lot of narrative control that might otherwise be lost with a “clearer” rule.
All in all, Light is a satisfying experience, though the niche theme may be difficult for some to latch onto. However, if you’ve ever wanted to step back in time 130ish years and experience what it’s like to go slowly mad in a lighthouse, this game is for you.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. I did have a dream once where I was in a reverse lighthouse, though. It was a sunken tower – think man-made stalactite – that warned zeppelins when they got to close to the ceiling of a massive cave. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this disclaimer, I just thought it was neat.