As I said in my EGX Highlights piece, I had heard quite a bit about The Town Of Light prior to me heading to EGX. The game is being published by Wired Productions, the team which also published Victor Vran: Overkill Edition. I was at EGX and began chatting to one of the guys from Wired after the artwork above the game’s stations caught my eye. Me and Dan sat down to play the The Town Of Light, and a gentleman explained to us that the game’s environment was recreated using a genuine, decommissioned mental institute in Italy. Everything down to graffiti was recreated.
The game follows the story of Renee. At the age of 16 she was sent to said institute for, well no reason to be honest. She was deemed a danger to herself and others because she was the cause of public scandal. Some time after the institute closes, Renee revisits the location and this is where the game begins. You control Renee as she enters the grounds, and you slowly progress your way into and around the institute. Renee starts talking about Charlotte, and immediately you think it was a friend she had during her time in the institute. Unfortunately not. Charlotte is actually a doll which Renee cares for. So much so in fact that the first section of the game is finding and warming Charlotte up. It’s here in this first section that The Town Of Light really begins to shine.
It’s the small touches in the game that make the suspense and creep you out. For instance after I found Charlotte I began looking around the room for something to warm her up (Renee wouldn’t allow progression until Charlotte was warm). As I was looking around I looked down and saw Renee’s hands cradling the doll as if it was a child. Her thumb slowly running over the doll, in what looked like some form of comforting mechanic Renee developed during her time in the institute. The derelict building, the fact it’s so empty. The fact you are aware this is a real place. They all add up.
After a few minutes you may think to yourself “Oh great, another walking simulator”. While this is somewhat true, this term is one that has come to mean a game is rather lackluster in the story department. However as Firewatch, and The Town Of Light, prove this isn’t always a bad thing. When done properly, with good story, a walking simulator can be a good game. As you walk through the corridors of the institute it dawns on you. People lived in the location this is based on. Back in the 1930s, when Renee was taken into the institute, those who were living with mental illnesses were kept locked up in cells in institutes like this. Left there, rather than being treated. This is what The Town Of Light is highlighting, and the story that it is telling.
It may not be an action packed game. It may not be a horror game full of jumpscares. The Town Of Light is however a very good, suspense filled look at the conditions patients were exposed to back in the early 1900s. There are some dark themes in the game. However if you can understand that these themes aren’t just thrown in, there are there to tell a story (based upon true facts at that) you will enjoy this game.