One forever might argue video games rights to be considered ‘art’. Whilst as fans of the industry we could rattle off a metric ton of titles that we consider land upon the level of artistic genius the world’s most jaw-dropping paintings live upon – Journey, Flower, Edith Finch, Busby 3D etc… – it has always seemed a little trickier for those on the outside of our industry perhaps don’t take the job quite as serious as we do. Heck, throw in Limbo too, Inside, the list goes on. I think I could probably make a case for Strayed Lights being included in the pantheon of great artistically leaning adventure games that we can show off from our industry as the definition of ‘art’.
Falling from the same tree as the likes of ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ and its wondrous sequel, Strayed Hearts works as an allegory for mental health – in a Celeste kind of way. Except this time you’re instead of being a young girl facing her demons whilst scaling a mountain, you’re a young girl parrying her way through gorgeous environments and battling her deepest darkest thoughts by repelling them.
This is what makes Strayed Lights so very unique. Its combat system is breath of fresh air amongst a sea of similarly mashed up adventure games. There’s no real way to attack, instead you’re building up an ability bar by repelling attacks and matching up against your enemy, going toe to toe without them hitting you before you strike back with devastating blows. In the hour of the game I’ve played there was a plenty of time to work on this new mechanic, something I certainly wasn’t expecting when jumping in.
The primary mechanic is matching colours with your enemy. If you see them turn orange, say, you need to turn orange in order to successfully parry. It requires a stern amount of concentration as the colours can change at any moment and whilst there’s a pattern to them for you to learn. At first it can be somewhat fiddly, but once the rhythm is in place it’s enormously satisfying and becomes far easier once it’s expected. No, it’s not going to trouble Dark Souls players anytime soon but irregardless, it’s a brilliant mechanic with allows a game like Strayed Lights to stand on its own in a busy genre.
The ‘corruped’ attacks also add another layer of concentration to Strayed Lights already focused combat. Corrupted attacks are unblockable and need to be dodged, so once again timing plays a crucial role in your defence patterns. You can only heal yourself from blocking so correctly pulling off each dodge and parry is crucial if you’re to see yourself through Strayed Lights without a scratch.
From a visual standpoint yes, Strayed Lights is absolute corker .It ran like silk on my RTX GeForce 3070, the game not even batting an eyelid when the combat became rather intense. The beautiful locations included in the demo allow you to get a real feel for a good majority of the games areas, and each one shines in multiple different ways. I also wanted to shout out they design of your enemies, which look like a cross between Studio Ghibli and God of War. And of course bceause this is a game about fighting fears and depression there’s a bloody spider. Because of course there is. Fair warning before heading in. They’re not Hogwarts Legacy huge or even Limbo, but there’s enough there to get the adrenaline pumping if you’re not a fan of the bastards. The gorgeous music from Austin Wintory compliments each scene beautifully, creating symphonics the fill up the screen as you’re dodging and parrying away in order to reclaim a meagre amount of health.
From what I can tell the story itself is told through the games visual cues. There is no voice acting, no dialogue, the torment your character feels is presented purely visually, so if you’re more of a reader/listener when it comes to these types of stories you’re going to be left wanting. I’ve seen arguments online that your character is the representation of the inner turmoil they suffer, and I can get on board with that. The light that surrounds and follows you is the ‘strayed’, and it all depends if you’re into your allegories. At times you may want the game to just spell it out, but if you’re similar with titles such as the aforementioned Celeste and Limbo, you’ll understand the aesthetic they’re going for. It really works, too.
Given how gorgeous this game is everywhere else, there’s something under the hood which is worth following, and I’m going to see this light through to the end once the full game releases in April.
Strayed Lights is due for release in April for Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4|5, Switch and PC (preview platform).
Disclaimer: In order to write this preview we were provided with a code for a demo on Steam.
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