Shade is lovely. Taking refuge from the sun underneath the branches of a tree as the breeze rustles through can make a beautiful day even better. Shadow, on the other hand, is more treacherous. The only way to know what the darkness hides is to stumble over it, but generally the hazards come from the things in the shadow rather than the absence of light itself. Lightmatter is a first-person puzzler where there’s nothing at all hiding in the shadows except the darkness, but just this once that’s a serious problem. The only way not to sink forever into the inky depths is to stay in the light, and even stepping in the thinnest strip of pitch-black shadow is death.
Lightmatter takes place in the not-a-lair testing facility of a perfectly normal scientist, whose acid wit and self-assured belief that he’s on track to better the world inspire confidence that he knows what he’s doing. The accident that turned his lab, which is sanely located deep in the heart of a mountain, into a death-trap of shadows is merely a bump in the road, unfortunate and unpleasant but, ultimately, surmountable. Just follow his fully voice-acted instructions on the overall goal while figuring out the small detail of how to actually achieve it and everything should work out fine.
The Lightmatter demo is a trip through the earliest puzzles in the game, manipulating light to clear a path through each level. Hit switches to rotate platforms, hop over gaps or shadows in the floor, carry and place spotlights to shine down hallways, etc. Even in these earliest areas there are some clever designs, and the difficulty ramps up nicely right from the start. Backtracking to create and re-create paths is necessary from the very first room, and it only gets trickier when the electro-orbs come into play. The orb is connected with a line of plasma between itself and the unmovable central unit, creating a lit corridor along the beam, but any little thing can break the beam and send you sinking into the shadow realm. Figuring out the right path when using them takes a good sense of spatial awareness, and the demo expects you’re smart enough to puzzle it out from the start. It’s refreshingly tricky but not unfair, which is an excellent if difficult balance to maintain.
Lightmatter revealed its first trailer today, showing off the puzzles and its comic-book style. Give it a look below, or head straight over to the game’s Discord page and grab the demo to play it yourself.