Developer LKA released its first person adventure game The Town of Light on PC last year but more recently has included the option to play in VR via a BETA version (the 2D version is also available on Xbox One and PS4). This works with the Oculus Rift & Vive but does not feature any motion controls. It’s fairly cheap under £14 but offers around 4 hours of playtime so take that as you will. So the question remains is this worth a punt in VR?
To begin, it’s March 12th 1938 in Italy where Renée a 16 year old girl is taken, locked up and deprived of everything through her suffering of mental illness. During the time little was known about how to effectively treat patients who exhibited the often dangerous (to themselves) behaviors and so this is story about Renée reliving her ordeal in a real asylum. The Town of Light is effectively a walking sim and rather than being a horror game with jump scares and supernatural entities it favours a more warped and claustrophobic view of the real word – as Renée sees it. Without spoiling, the horror comes from the way in which she is stripped of her personality, dignity and treated by those who are supposedly there to cure her condition. It’s a slow-paced game that relies on the player to figure things out for themselves but are offered plenty of audio and visual cues to aid progression. That said, there are some moments where it’s quite vague and you might be left stumbling around until something is triggered. It’s not a game of action that’s for sure where basically you’re being told a story from the viewpoint of one character. It’s an interesting story, somewhat depressing and informative about the horrors of medical practices before our modern understanding of mental illness treatments. The twist at the end is suitably horrific which only has an impact if you feel an affinity with Renée as you discover more about her through the course of each chapter.
In VR, the world of Renée opens up when in the exterior locations although there is some pop-in with distant objects such as trees which can take you out of the moment. One section where playing on the park rounderbout can certainly recreate being dizzy which is quite fun. The enclosed nature of the asylum is well realized and feels suitably gloomy in its abandoned degenerated state. There are a few moments of warped visuals which aid the perception of Renée’s mind but mostly it’s a simple case of move from point A to point B with little interaction – although if you dig deeper you will find some secrets here and there. In this regard there’s not much visual variety for the majority of the experience although some scenes are shown via way of still images and the odd moment where simple two tone graphics are used to convey events. That said, the audio is excellent with the constant narration from Renée and haunting sounds you would expect from the asylum and its inhabitants. The audio visual elements work well in tandem making for a compelling story to see to its conclusion.
To conclude, The Town of Light is an interesting experience for those who like hands-on story telling. The theme here is dark and imposing but also informative and compelling. However, VR puts you further into the shoes of the main character although isn’t a necessity in this instance due to the gameplay design. VR then is a nice bonus to play the story (which you can repeat for different outcomes depending on choices made) but not essential.