Bolstered by a minimalistic visual delivery and a soundtrack that sounds like Depeche Mode B-sides, Flowing Light’s 200 bite-sized action-puzzles ooze creativity. But tedium might set in before you’ve completed the bulk of them.
Platform: PC, also on Xbox One
Release date: May 7th, 2021
Price: $9.99 via digital download
Availability: Steam and other digital storefronts
With a ship that looks like a mantra ray and environments that resembles the kind of scatter plot used on the cover of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures”, Flowing Lights makes a solid first impression. While Maxime Carpentier’s moody Moog-powered score serenades with blips and bloops, you’re guide the game’s diminutive devil ray across landscapes with bas-relief mountains and valleys.
While you’re able to apply a bit of boost to climb steep hills or catapult yourself from falling into chasms, movement is hardly effortless. Undoubtedly, this is a harbinger of the challenges to come. Fortunately, pop-up instruction windows reveal two offensive devices to deal with ubiquitous enemies. The first is laser fire that emanates from the front of the manta. While fast and limitless, the range of your gun is constrained, pushing you close to projectile-firing foes.
Slicing Octopi like a Takoyaki Stand
The second gun works like a slingshot. You’ll hold a button and pull back to initiate firing an orb-shaped projectile. Like a bow, a longer draw will send your shot further. You’ll have a red indicator that indicates the trajectory of the shot, with Flowing Lights rewarding players who successfully eliminating multiple targets. While you can pass the game’s micro-puzzles by gradually shaving down their numbers, a grading system encourages players to chase down combos.
Naturally, as the mantra moves on, Flowing Lights’ difficulty escalates, with the game adding new variations. Opponents who fired intermittent bullets will soon release bullet-hell like tempests. Or they might track your movement like a machine gunner, forcing you to take refuge behind part of the environment. Eliminating enemies will require careful analysis of a situation, and often nimble fingers to launch a quick, but carefully aimed, orb shot.
Understand the Gravity of the Situation
Accuracy isn’t always easy since gravity is altered in Flowing Light’s environment. Straight shots aren’t even possible given the storm of projectiles launched by octopus-like opponents. Often, you’ll have to curve shots around crags or basins. Elevations can complicate matters as well, and when enemies are arranged in a bowling pin formation, you’ll realize the complications that a ribbon-like ground can create.
Although Flowing Lights mechanics blend into an experience that’s quite creative and distinctive, the experience isn’t perfect. Before long, the procession of fast-paced conundrums can blend together, and you might feel like you’re in puzzle purgatory. Early on, the game throws a long succession of challenges can induce fatigues. Later, you’ll meet a rousing sequence of stages that pay homage to Space Invaders, but it would have been refreshing to see the title mix things up a bit more, especially in the first zone.
Help is On the Way, Devil Ray
Like most games that give you a cerebral work out, you’ll inevitably get stuck on a stage. Wisely, Flowing Lights ensures this won’t cause frustration. After failing at a puzzle a few times, you’ll gain optional power-ups that can provide abilities like slowing time when you are adjacent to projectiles. Although, you’ll forfeit a spot on the online leaderboards, Lights let you revisit those trials when you’re mentally primed.
Flowing Lights was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.