Review: LIT (WiiWare)

Is LIT a light in the dark or just running up the electricity bill?

Turn off the lights and grab your controller because it’s up to you to - erm - turn them back on. That’s the basic premise behind WayForward’s spooky puzzle game LIT.

LIT puts you in the shoes of Jake, your regular pale-faced emo teenager, whose girlfriend is missing in a school that has become overrun with a mysterious darkness that turns worryingly hostile if you get too close. The only way to get through is to find available light sources to cut through the shadows to get safely to the exit door. To escape the school, you’ll have to help Jake traverse the 30 darkened classrooms and defeat five dark and twisted school faculty members with whatever tools you can find on site.

Each classroom is a self-contained puzzle and has different items and lights that you can use to find your way around. Lights have different properties, such as lamps that shine a circle of light, rotating lights that move a beam of light back and forth and motion sensors that turn on when they sense movement nearby. Even TVs and computer monitors become useful elements and can be turned on to provide a path to freedom. Some classrooms will also have windows that can be shattered to provide much needed illumination. To break them you’ll need to find some slingshot ammo or cherry bombs; both of these items can be found in the various classrooms. You’ll also find TV remotes to operate the TVs and flares to bridge small gaps.

It’s a given that the shady nasties of the dark aren’t going to make life simple for you, even when you’re packing pockets full of cherry bombs. A single step into the darkness and you’ll be pulled under only to start the stage over. Additionally, someone’s been messing with the fuse boxes, and a bar at the top of the screen will fill whenever Jake turns on any of the lights. Turn on one too many lights and the fuse will pop, plunging you into darkness. Jake did come prepared however, as one item you’ll always have with yourself is your trusty, rechargeable flashlight (shaking charges it up). The flashlight gives a few moments to investigate your surroundings and plan your next move.

LIT is controlled with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with the analogue stick controlling Jake’s movement. You’ll use your on-screen cursor to direct your flashlight as well as to aim when using certain items. The "B" button switches your active item and the "A" button uses the active item, as well as interacting with nearby objects, such as switches. Some items use the Wii Remote’s motion sensing to make it a little interesting, such as a flick to start a flare, a toss to throw a cherry bomb, and a shake to charge up your flashlight.

The control system works well in principle but there are moments of tension where you’ll be cursing the context-sensitive commands. It’s far too easy to inadvertently trigger something when pressing the A button, when in fact you meant to interact with an object that appears, to the player’s eyes, to be a safe distance away. It’s not a deal-breaking issue and careful control can avoid it, but it’s a shame that the developer couldn’t have worked a bit harder with this aspect of the game.

The puzzles in LIT are pretty original and in some later stages require a fair bit of thought. One cannot simply run in and just turn on each and every light; most puzzles involve making paths of light and following them to the exit. Later on however, different puzzles require careful timing, effective use of the stage’s items, and managing the fuse’s power consumption. Interestingly, Jake will even be required to break some lights and computers to keep the fuse in check. Sometimes the solution to a room feels a little obtuse, but in the tradition of classic adventure titles, a little "trial and error" usually helps you to the exit.

Puzzles aside, bosses provide the biggest challenges as you’ll need to figure out how to shine some light on them while avoiding whatever attacks they may throw at you. A single hit will take you back to the start of the stage to try again, which can get pretty frustrating, but at least it keeps the tension high.

LIT’s best feature is undoubtedly its fantastic art style. The stages themselves are a canvas of black and white, clearly showing what’s safe and what means certain death. Turning on your flashlight and looking around the room will cause the darkness to dissolve away, revealing creepy monsters and bugs, racing back to the shadows. Occasionally, you’ll come across ringing phones that allow you to listen to your girlfriend -- who is also trapped somewhere in the school -- through the Wii Remote’s speaker. These phone calls are incredibly spooky and are used to communicate most of what story there is since Jake is the usual silent protagonist.

Conclusion

LIT is a highly original take on the puzzle genre that uses its oppressive atmosphere to focus the action and deliver an innovative experience that you’re unlikely to find in most other puzzlers. The main issues relate to the sometimes awkward controls, slightly inconsistent puzzles, and occasional bouts of frustration. Having said that, for 800 Wii points, you get lots of stages to play through (plus unlockables), and even a time trial mode called Dark Mode. WayForward put a lot of time and work into LIT and it shows; it’s not perfect but if you’re in the mood for a puzzle game with a difference, break out your flashlight and watch out for what hides in the dark.

Note: The European release of LIT contains the following gameplay improvements:

  • All Rachael phonecalls subtitled (in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch).
  • C Button activates room objects, A button still activates handheld objects. No more accidental lamp deaths.
  • When shining flashlight around, objects remain lit longer.
  • Minor adjustments to ease of flashlight control.

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