Nintendo systems seem to have no shortage of puzzle games, and in keeping with tradition, developers have already loaded the WiiWare platform with plenty of titles in the genre. WayForward Technologies (Contra 4, Shantae), however, brings to Wii owners a unique twist on some tried-and-true puzzle design. With its obscure tale of a high school overrun by evil and darkness – as well as its interesting use of lighting – Lit treads its own path and brings something refreshing to Wii.
The game begins with your character, Jake, entering a classroom with the number “101” (clever, no?) on the door. There’s zero exposition, no tutorial or instructions, and the player is simply left to figure out for themselves why they’re there, what they’re meant to do, and how to do it. It’s jarring to say to the least, but putting your best foot forward, it quickly becomes clear what the gameplay gist is all about: making it to the exit of each classroom.
You’ll make your way through the whole of the school in hopes of finding your girlfriend, Rachael. Occasionally – upon entering a new room – you’ll hear a phone ringing; if you can get to the phone in time, Rachael will feed you a little more of the game’s story.
The entire thrust of Lit’s gameplay is, as its namesake implies, about lighting Jake’s way so as to allow him to make it to the exit of each room. It’s an action puzzler, much in the vein of Exit (minus the platforming) or Pet Alien, and both the level design and use of the Wii Remote are clever and often quite satisfying. What’s not so hot is that each puzzle pretty much has one set way to be completed, and the level of intricacy and challenge leads to lots and lots of trial and error. You’ll often be forced to redo rooms upwards of 10 times before you see the clear path ahead, and that’s only after moving slowly forward a little bit with each additional replay.
As mentioned, Lit is all about…well, light, as moving into the darkness will leave you helpless against the wraith-like creatures who have taken over your school. Jake has a flashlight always on his person, though it can only be used to investigate a room (by moving the Wii Remote in real-time) – not for safety from the darkness. Any time the flashlight runs low on juice, you simply need to waggle the Wii Remote to get your charge back up to full. It’s a neat mechanic that isn’t overplayed and adds a subtle bit of enjoyment to the overall experience.
There are a few other such gameplay fixtures that work really well, and for the most part, Lit never misuses the unique functionality of the Wii. You’ll find pellets that can be slung (using Jake’s slingshot) at windows and such by holding the Z-trigger and aiming with the Wii Remote. Likewise, you can lob cherry bombs by locking onto an area of a room and using a forward-throwing gesture with the remote. They’re very satisfying moves when executed, and again, they’re not overused or abused. The area of effect for the cherry bombs, however, was pretty inconsistent, though we eventually learned to manipulate the item fairly well.
Each room is a unique puzzle, and you’ll often have to break windows to allow light to stream in, which in turn will let you make your way to a lamp, computer monitor, or other helpful object that can illuminate a greater portion of the room. However, there’s a light meter at the top of the screen, and if you turn on too many lights at once, you’ll blow a fuse and have to restart the level. For the most part, there’s a logical succession to how you make your way through each room, though the complexity of levels will inevitably cause most folks to do lots of tinkering, making small connections each step of the way.
One tremendously nagging issue with Lit, however, is its boss battles. They’re challenging and interesting, but only partially satisfying upon completion. It’s never clear what’s expected of you (except during the game’s final boss), and each boss encounter leads to a long series of repeats, as you slowly work your way toward the solution.
It’s usually a good feeling once you’ve run through all the paces and finally see the boss fall to their demise, but it can be a painful process all the same. You never get that good feeling of when everything just clicks. It’s more a matter of trying different things until something finally works, then stringing those things together (after endless tries) to complete the encounter. The final boss, however, simply rages on, and the controls for using cherry bombs become a serious frustration. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that terms such as “obtuse” and “asinine” come immediately to mind. Considering the nature of the classroom levels, the bosses will likely make little sense and prove to be a sore spot for folks who’ve come for the puzzles.
As was the case with Zack & Wiki – ultimately, Lit’s finer qualities outweigh its frustrations. It’s all about trial, error, and tons of repetition, but there’s still a lot of fun and satisfaction packed into the experience. The levels, surprisingly, lend themselves to repeat playthroughs, as the diversity and complexity is such that you’ll quickly forget just what was required to get through a given classroom. It’s also quite satisfying to string all the many elements together and simply run through a room, even if you already know exactly how it’s done. Additionally, there are various unlockables and extras that promise to extend the life of the game.
On the production front, Lit looks like an early PS2 game, and considering the amount of memory it will take up on your system, as well as the gameplay and price, it’s a fine presentation that gets the job done. You only see the characters up close on rare occasions, but the models look good and exhibit a decent level of detail for a WiiWare title. The entire school is dark, and the elements within each room mostly serve as obstacles for you to navigate, offering little in the way of visual panache.
There were occasional bouts of slowdown, and Jake’s animation is a bit jerky and unnatural – the latter causing the controls to feel somewhat unwieldy at times. The lighting is, of course, used to good effect, but the whole game has a sort of cartoon skin over it. There are no real fear elements, and though the lighting effects work fine as a gameplay mechanic, they do little to enhance the mood. Lit definitely has an interesting premise, but it’s just not scary. That’s kind of disappointing, since the game otherwise boils down to simply working out puzzles with little reason to stop and enjoy the view. A bit more emphasis on story, along with some well-placed, jump-out-at-you moments would have really helped to round out the experience.
The aural elements aren’t too memorable either, though there are some clever uses of sound via the Wii Remote. Whenever you answer a ringing phone, you’ll be prompted to hold the remote to your ear, and Rachael will then talk to you through the speaker on the remote. It’s another neat, little touch that adds personality to the game. The sound effects do an okay job of cuing you when engaging an object or picking up an item, but monster sounds aren’t very impressive. The music, too, is kind of disappointing, with generic themes that loop over and over. That said, neither the sound nor music get in the way of playing through levels.
On the whole, Lit is a great first effort on WiiWare by WayForward. The problems the game exhibits could likely only be remedied by starting anew, and hopefully the developer will see fit to follow up with a sequel. Lit has a good foundation, it’s fun and satisfying to play, and ultimately worth the 800 Wii Points. The presentation has some clever and fun touches, and frustration and blemishes not withstanding, fans of both puzzles and the macabre should definitely give the game a look.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The lighting is used in refreshing ways that truly make the game what it is. Character models look good, and the overall game has a neat vibe. Jerky animations lead to issues with controlling your character. 3.5 Control
The control mapping is mostly smart and satisfying in execution, but controls weren’t designed to stand up well to some of the game’s action-heavy boss levels. Some sense of weight when using the flashlight would have been nice. Graphical issues have a slight, negative effect on control of your character and various items he’ll use throughout the game. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Though the voice work is sparse, it’s entertaining. The music is pretty unremarkable, as are the sound effects, but nothing ever gets in the way of the experience. 3.8
The initial playthrough is fairly lengthy for an $8 WiiWare game. Extra modes, replayable levels, and an unlockable character definitely add real weight to the package. We do wish, however, there was more than just a paper-thin story.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.