In Rays of the Light Review

The world is eating itself alive thanks to avarice, apathy and an ongoing embroilment in hatred, fuelling humanity’s decay into extinction – and it’s this very morbid and dour subject matter which developer Sergey Noskov envelopes you in throughout this short one-hour sojourn through  abandoned confines. Echoing post-apocalyptic tendencies in its lonely and uninhabitable environments, In Rays of the Light does its best to evoke an unnerving atmosphere with blackboard scribblings, black and white photographs, and depressing messages written on notepads. Unfortunately, In Rays of Light feels flat and unfulfilling despite some promising ideas.

Upon starting In Rays of Light you are equipped with the bare minimum, save a flash light, and your objective is to survey your surroundings and search for an object to proceed before the game rests comfortably in the often derided “walking simulator” genre, where you walk around occasionally finding notes of despair and objects inside lockers that can help you make headway. The abandoned offices and classrooms make you ponder what’s been going on, and In Rays of Light does a pleasant job of getting players to read to find out what on earth is going on. However, there’s a sense the dread written on these pieces of paper don’t convey anything besides the base level hardships, as if they were written for the lone sake of driving home the game’s lugubrious themes rather than fleshing them out and making them meaningful.

Minimalism is In Rays of The Light’s approach to gameplay. It’s not all walking and finding out where to go, there are a few interesting puzzles you will contend with as well. Examples include finding and inputting padlock codes, a section shrouded entirely in darkness with only a lighter to guide you and another part where you have to power a generator to let there be light. There are no threats or monstrosities to deal with, but there are shadows lurking and messages scrawled on walls that keep the tension chiming along, but the inconsequential nature of the gameplay experience is rather dry despite a promising atmosphere and story.

It’s a shame there aren’t more pick-ups available in the game as much of what you find cannot be interacted with, but what you do find will only encourage your curiosity going forward even if what you find will be threadbare. There are a few little secrets the game hides within its confinements, but their novelties don’t add value and serve little purpose to the narrative.   

The soundtrack and general sound design is impressively realised. Dmitry Nickolaev’s score does a splendid job of reflecting the themes presented. The gentle but melancholic use of piano at the start meticulously sets the mood and the modesty and the underlying nature of the score does a lovely job heightening the solemnity of the subject matter. Similarly the use of sound during gameplay is slight but effective, giving the atmosphere a boost that promotes the wonderful presentation at work here.

To its credit, In Rays of the Light does a solid job of setting you into its dreariness. Dropping you into a derelict school building and watching the concrete being reclaimed by the greenery is a fascinating visual subtlety you will notice that aligns pleasingly with the story’s concerns regarding human destruction. The cleanliness of the game’s visual style is also inviting and impressive, although more variation in the environments would propel and amplify its excellence further.

At only an hour or so in length, In Rays Of the Light is very brief and there’s only a second ending that may compel you to return for a second time, but what you will discover during your time with the game is memorable enough to leave a lingering impression.

Conclusion

Subtle but solidly produced, In Rays of the Light does a beautiful and eloquent job of drawing you into its story and environments. Much can be appreciated regarding the artistry on display here and while the gameplay doesn’t compare favourably to it, there’s plenty of potential in what the game offers stylistically and in regards to its presentation that it can stand tall and comes recommended for its attempts at drawing you in. There is a need to make the gameplay more riveting despite the lurking presence of shadows, as there’s a propensity for unexcitingly light puzzles and a frustrating segment amid darkness, but in all In Rays of the Light is worth a look if you want a short, flawed but compelling and well-made jaunt.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Wonderful visuals that draw you in
  • Great disturbing themes and aura
  • Haunting and convincingly dreary
Bad
  • Gameplay is straightforward and bland
  • Only an hour long
  • Not enough pick-ups
7.4
Good
Gameplay - 6.8
Graphics - 8.2
Audio - 8
Longevity - 6.4
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

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