Whenever you see a puzzle game with a minimalist aesthetic, it's easy to assume that it'll be zen-like and possibly boring. However, Linelight provides a unique approach to the genre as it's filled with challenges that'll push your brainpower to its limit.
Linelight is fittingly played by controlling a light that moves along a line. Simple enough, right? The stages are laid out like circuit diagrams where activating switches can open doors or make lines move to different locations. As the campaign progresses, things get incrementally more complex to the point where you must solve puzzles that involve many different mechanics. You'll eventually have to outrun enemy lights that either move on their own or in tandem with you, push and pull lights with magnetic fields, extend your light at certain terminals, and trick enemy lights to crash into walls. Thankfully, the learning curve is implemented in such a gradual and intuitive way that you'll never be left in the dust with the inability to know how to progress. On top of that, the stages are cleverly crafted in that the first half of each has you solve puzzles solo while the second half forces you to both run from and take advantage of an ever-present enemy light. The variety of mechanics and perfectly-paced progression make Linelight one of the most addictive puzzle experiences that I've ever played.
Linelight's minimalist visuals are spot-on as they make gameplay intuitive and provide a sense of style that's actually quite refreshing. Although the graphics don't change much throughout, they still manage to remain intriguing from start to finish. To add an additional layer of immersion, a beautifully ambient soundtrack accompanies the gameplay wonderfully. As someone who usually doesn't appreciate this sort of minimalism, I must admit that Linelight left me stunned by its sights and sounds.
Linelight's campaign consists of six impressively lengthy worlds, an epilogue, and two bonus worlds. Each world introduces a new mechanic and thoroughly tests your ability to master it which feels very satisfying. Besides just playing through the worlds, you can aim to collect all of the stars that are scattered around the maps. Doing so is fairly easy as most of them are collected simply by playing through. However, there are also loads of secret stars that can be found within hidden areas that branch off the main stages. These areas can be extremely challenging and act as fantastic ways to test your skills. Considering the campaign itself is quite long and there are tons of secrets to discover, you'll spend hours trying to master everything Linelight has to offer.
That actually brings me to my next point: there isn't anything to do after you complete the entire game and find all of the stars. I wish there were leaderboards where you can compare how long each stage took you to beat or a challenge mode with online rankings. Instead, all you can do after you beat it is start from the beginning and play it all again. Even solved puzzles remain solved which makes navigating through the worlds easier but it also means that in order to experience them again, you have to start a new save file.
I don't have much else negative to say about Linelight so I'll wrap this up soon. Basically, the later stages require far too much trial and error and I found them to be a bit too tedious considering how streamlined the first handful of worlds are. Having to time things perfectly just isn't fun. Finally, whenever you perish, you basically start at that screen again which I found took away from the challenge. If there was a life system or some sort of punishment for failure then that would have provided some incentive to try your best. Instead, you can mess up all you want and it doesn't really matter as you can just give it another go immediately.
Linelight is one of the best indie puzzlers ever made. Its immersive, challenging, and varied gameplay is presented in such an accessible and brilliant way that even after you're done with it, you'll think fondly back at this little light for years to come.
- + Incredible variety of puzzle mechanics with a perfectly implemented learning curve
- + Superb audio and minimalist visuals
- + Tons of secrets to discover
- - Later stages rely too much on trial and error
- - Failure has little consequence
- - No replay value once you find everything