Though I own a pair of consoles whose secondary purpose is to deliver a steady stream of digital content directly to the relative comfort of my den, I am usually very slow to actually purchase any. As a result, I tend to miss out on some of the fun inherent in picking up a downloadable title when it still has that "new game smell." For example, by the time I’d exhausted the fun to be had in the demo version of Castle Crashers, all my friends had already powered through the co-op of the full version, thus leaving me bereft of willing allies. Likewise, when I finally got around to playing the initial levels of physics puzzler World of Goo, those same friends were well into the later chapters.
Determined to abate this trend before I once again found myself in the shameful hinterlands of the bell curve’s back end, I purchased WiiWare horror puzzler LIT at launch. Therein, protagonist Jake finds his high school shrouded in supernatural darkness and overrun by a diabolical cadre of things that go bump in the night. On a mission to save his girlfriend Rachael from the gathering threat, Jake makes his way through 30 darkened classrooms using his flashlight, his trusty slingshot, various helpful pick-up items, and a series of conveniently placed light-producing electronics.
The core puzzle element of LIT is deceptively simple; in order to survive, Jake must stay within the light. Each level starts with Jake in a safe corona in front of an entrance door. From there, he must use his wits and the tools at hand to navigate to the far side of the room and reach an exit door. He does so by turning on lamps to expand his zone of safety, smashing windows with conveniently available slingshot ammo to create light paths, and occasionally bridging minute gaps using flares.
While the principle activity of turning on lights can be easily accomplished via the game’s standard top-down perspective using the Nunchuk’s directional pad to direct movement and the A button to execute the context-sensitive command, the player must occasionally shift into a third-person view and use Wii Remote itself to break windows with the slingshot or to employ other such items. The Wiimote is also used extensively to scour the room in the standard view with Jake’s flashlight. This flashlight offers no protection itself and has a laughably short battery life (though it can be recharged by fervently shaking the remote), but does provide the player a chance to survey the room for points of interest.
While this simple control scheme works very well when using the Wiimote to move the targeting reticule, it is far less successful in other regards. The concept of "darkness = death" is often tested against its own in-game logic. Sometimes Jake is allowed to pass slightly out of his safety area to activate a nearby lamp, but other times is immediately dragged to an untimely demise by shadow creatures for simply toeing into a sliver of darkness between two light sources. And this isn’t the only flaw.
The same context-sensitive controls that make switching on a lamp or launching a projectile so simple become muddled by simple proximity. At some points in the game, you find yourself in possession of a remote control which can be used to turn on televisions from afar; however it is commonplace to find that one’s active control has shifted at a most inopportune time. I have, for example, gotten too close and accidentally switched off my safety lamp while trying to turn on a TV, only to be plunged into darkness, devoured by demons, and forced to start the level all over again. Worse yet, this same shortcoming can cause Jake to accidentally turn on one too many lamps, thus blowing the room’s meager fuse. Inventory management and item-cycling should be integral to such a title, but a player should never feel as if a game is working against him with regard to command menus.
There’s also the minor issue of the game’s intermittent boss battles, where the focus suddenly shifts from escaping one room to the next to defeating a monstrous faculty member by bathing it in light. Still, this is a minor gripe that, while counter-intuitive, does add some variety to gameplay.
Despite its flaws, LIT succeeds far more than it fails. The art direction is enjoyable, the ambiance (much aided by suspense-building phone calls from Rachael) is appropriately creepy without ever crossing into the realm of the disturbing, and unlockables like a second playable character and harder difficulty mode give you good bang for your buck. For 800 Wii points – that $8.00 American – LIT is easy to recommend for fans of puzzlers who are looking to do more than just move blocks. At its best it is a joy to play, and even at its worst it is an entertaining learning experience wrapped in a monster-dodging logic puzzle. WayForward Technologies‘ LIT is ESRB rated E10+ for geeklings ten and up, and is currently available for purchase on your Nintendo Wii through the WiiWare Channel.
WIRED: Solidly creative concept. Engaging without belaboring the narrative. Nice use of motion control.
TIRED: Problems with context-sensitive controls. A bit inconsistent. Occasionally unforgiving.