STAFF REVIEW of In rays of the Light (Xbox One)

Saturday, March 13, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

In rays of the Light Box art Developed by Sergey Noskov, In rays of the Light is actually a remake of his 2012 game with a similar name, The Light. Having watched a playthrough of the original The Light, I was actually unable to see much of a difference between that and this version for consoles for the most part, so if you were a fan of The Light, I can’t say there’s much of a difference, though loading doesn’t really exist once you’re in the game on an Xbox Series X.

While walking simulator games usually get a bad reputation for being dull, there are a few that have done it right, adding some interesting mechanics or an enthralling narrative you keep you interested while you, well, walk. In rays of the Light blends a walking simulator with some light puzzle elements, and while there is an overall bleak narrative, it’s only really told through notes scattered around the building you’re exploring, leaving you to make some of your own interpretations.

While some will find its gameplay dull, as you’re simply slowly walking around an abandoned building that nature has taken back with the absence of people, I do have to praise its audio quality, as there’s a soft overtone of desolation with the music and once you get into the basement, the light horror elements really get ramped up and will have you looking behind your back to see if anything is there.

It’s a gloomy story that if you can piece it together, has a larger meaning overall about how destructive mankind can be, which is fitting given you start out in an abandoned building with seemingly no other life nearby aside from some birds chirping outside. I was instantly making connections to Chernobyl, as it felt like exploring a long abandoned building that I shouldn’t be anywhere near, especially when I opened up a trunk of a car outside only to hear a Geiger Counter clicking sound, indicating that the area is contaminated by an unhealthy amount of radiation.

It’s clear that people have left this place quite some time ago, as there’s no power, windows are broken, mostly everything has been looted and the ivy on the side of the school reaches from the ground to the roof. Even though the area you’re in is quite small and you’re bound by walls and fences, it still has a feeling of being somewhat open world. You’re going to need to explore every corner, door and everywhere you can think of to hopefully not just find a way out, but to figure out what exactly happened here. Being that your first playthrough should take about two or three hours, mostly because of the slow walking pace and aimless exploration, there are technically twenty minute speedruns for those that want a quick achievement netting game. While there are two endings, unless you’re a walking simulator fan, I don’t see many striving to try for both.

Played in first person, In rays of the Light tries to make the experience as immersive as possible, as there’s no HUD on the screen at all, but the side effect to this is that you don’t always know exactly where your cursor is to interact and pick up objects, which can be clumsy at the best of times. There’s also a ton of graffiti on the walls, by whom you don’t know, and most of it I was unable to read given that much of it was in Russian. I understand that due to the geographical area of the setting, but I’m sure I would have gotten a little more from the experience if I was able to know what exactly was written on the walls.

I initially thought that there was going to be some sort of horror element, and there’s a section in the basement where it seems like this is the case, especially since you’re holding a pipe for much of your time, but there’s nothing to combat against. That said, the audio and atmosphere is done so well that you actually do think that something or someone is stalking you at times, but there really is no threat, so you can take your time exploring without fear.

The majority of the puzzles aren’t terribly difficult, mostly just having you find a key to access a new area or wing of the building. There are a few lock combinations you’ll have to figure out by reading the collectable notes, but aside from that, the puzzles elements are pretty light other than the basement section which does things quite differently. I won’t spoil anything given its short playtime, but be prepared for lots of aimless wandering in the dark in this section.

As for the visuals, it’s not the most photo realistic game I’ve ever experienced, but given than this is made from basically a single developer, it’s quite impressive. I’m not sure what has really been approved from its initial release on PC almost a decade ago, but there are a few small things that detract from the experience and took me out of the immersion. Small things simply seem out of place, like the vines on the side of the building that seem 'off' because of their bright coloring, or two sinks side by side that are exact copies of one another with their stains. Yes, I was critically looking for things to find and point out, but given how slowly you walk around the same areas repeatedly, they stood out more than I would have normally noticed. There were also a few graphical glitches and shadows don’t look natural at all with their blocky edge when outside in the sunlight. That said, the presentation overall absolutely nails its intention of a desolate and abandoned building, giving a feeling of isolation.

The audio on the other hand was easily the most impressive about the whole experience. To match the visual aesthetic, a melodic soundtrack was composed by Dmitry Nikolaev and was fantastic to simply stand around to and listen. The isolation feeling was further enhanced with all the audio queues and soundtrack. While there’s no enemies or creatures, you’re going to think there are due to the excellent audio, adding a lot of tension in one of the more unique areas.

While normally walking simulators aren’t my thing, In rays of the Light was a really unique experience, albeit quite short and able to be finished in a single sitting. While some will find aimlessly wandering searching for notes a bit dull, you need to look deeper for its actual meaning. For a world that’s so desolate, empty and gloomy, there’s a lot of beauty within if you look hard enough for it.

**In rays of the Light was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 4.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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