Linelight returns the puzzle genre to its core gameplay principles, providing challenging and thoughtful gameplay underpinned by simplistic core mechanics, expanded inwards with increasingly complex and diverse rulesets for the player to investigate and understand. Encouraging experimentation and mastery, Linelights focus on its figuring out out its systems proves enticing and rewarding.
The core gameplay in Linelight sees the player controlling a tiny light, capable of moving through an extensive network of lines. You’re able to move your light in any direction that the lines allow, and in doing so the game creates a diverse set of puzzle mechanics, based around this movement restriction, tasking you to trigger switches, move in time to avoid various hazards and ultimately, learn the rules of each level in order to get to your goal.
Similar to other puzzle games like The Witness, Linelight starts with an incredibly simple ruleset and builds upon it at a gradual pace in order to make the player feel empowered and rewarded. Solving the more complex puzzles in the later stages of the game feels like a grand accumulation of the knowledge you’ve gathered from all of your experiences prior, and it’s all the more satisfying as a result.
Linelight’s focus on its puzzle gameplay also means there’s no narrative to speak of – split into several stages the game is entirely focused on the progression of the players understanding of its mechanics. To some extent this is a limitation, and players may find it more difficult to be persistently engaged if there’s no secondary, narrative payoff at the end of a long series of puzzles, but those that want a puzzle game that’s honed in on the gameplay experience will find satisfaction in Linelights focus.
All of Linelights gameplay is played out to a cheerful melody, which actually comes as one of the games’ highlights. The upbeat tunes featured across the games’ 6 stages lend the game a sense of personality, despite its minimalism. This sense of personality also extends into the games’ visual appeal – the environment often reacts to you, and how other lines follow and often assist you on your journey throughout each makes them feel like real, living entities, in spite of their simplicity. Linelite blends simple audio visual components to create a minimalist puzzler that’s challenging, yet at the same time, packed with charm.
Linelights only significant caveat, is that it’s really rather short. If you were to know what you were doing you could easily complete the game within 3 hours, and it’s not likely that anyone would spend more than 5, even when figuring things out as they go. The game features 6 stages, each with a number of collectibles and while these might provide replay value ordinarily, I didn’t find it difficult to obtain almost all of these on my first try. Because there’s no real context or narrative, there’s no real incentive to push forward for one hundred percent completion, so the game could be seen to lack replay value, and it’s easy to feel as though you’ve simply seen enough after a while as there’s little incentive to return aside more of the same.
This is something games like Thomas was alone managed managed to tackle, by adding narrative-lite elements to otherwise simplistic puzzle games, they managed to encourage and engage the player to continue, even if the remaining content was likely merely more of the same. Despite this, those looking for a focused puzzle experience won’t be disappointed with the overall package, Linelight is a novel and challenging puzzle offering which when coupled with its charming presentation make it pleasure to play.