When I watch a trailer for a new independent developed game the thing that the team can usually do to grab my attention is to have an eye-catching art style. Many indie games have done this but sadly they don’t all hold up in the other important areas that make a game great. Strayed Lights from developer Embers is the latest to grab my attention with its visuals but does the rest of the game warrant your attention? Here’s my review of the PlayStation 5 version.
It’s kind of fitting that Strayed Lights comes from a team named Embers because in this game you play as a spark of light/fire that gains a humanoid body. Strayed Lights is a cinematic action-adventure game that tells its story without any words similar to something like Journey. You are born into a dreamlike alien world full of corruption and shadows and must explore and defeat enemies along the way. Games with no dialog or text to tell their story are a bit of a hit or miss for me as some manage to still draw me in emotionally while others don’t. Strayed Lights was a case of the latter as I just never really cared and understood enough of what was going on. You’re basically trying to free your siblings who have been corrupted but outside of that I didn’t get much out of it. Thankfully the gameplay manages to be fun which helped to make the experience worth it.
I would say the most notable thing about Strayed Lights besides the visuals is the combat gameplay. It’s built around a parry system that forces you to really pay attention to how the enemies move and attack. Not only do you have to time your parries right, but enemies also glow different colors and you can match these. If the enemy glows blue then you switch to blue and parry and if you do it right, you’ll gain some health. Blue and orange are the two colors you can switch between with the shoulder button but if an enemy glows purple you need to dodge that attack as you can’t change to that color. When I was fighting against one enemy, I enjoyed the combat a lot but when I had to fight multiple it got a bit more cumbersome and difficult. While the game is only a handful of hours long it would’ve been nice to have a bit more enemy variety too as you start facing the same ones over and over after a while. Boss fights are present though and these were a delight with some really cool cinematic moments that require you to be a bit more precise with your attacks and dodges.
When you’re not in combat you’ll be moving and platforming through the world which doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s very pretty but also quite barren except for enemies and some collectibles used to upgrade your skills. The platforming doesn’t feel as tight and responsive as it should either. The skills you can spend the currency that you find or gain from enemies on let you boost your health and gain some special abilities to give yourself a few more options in fights. The game also only lasts a handful of hours which for the asking price might not be long enough for some. While exploring the world wasn’t that exciting the visuals and musical score helped to keep me interested. Each area is beautiful and makes good use of colors like blue, orange, purple, and so on. The musical score by Austin Wintory is great too with some great tunes that fit this alien world. If you’re a trophy hunter you’ll find 26 trophies including a Platinum. The list is pretty easy as long as you are a completionist.
Strayed Lights offers up some solid combat encounters, a beautiful world, and an excellent score that makes it worth playing even if some other parts like the story and exploration aren’t as great. The game is very cinematic and nailing the parrying against basic enemies and bosses is satisfying. If you’re OK with getting through it in just a few hours then I’d give this one a solid recommendation.
*Strayed Lights is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.