In Rays of the Light

I never played The Light. I hadn’t even heard of it. I had also never heard of In Rays of the Light, which is a remake of The Light, until I happened upon it on sale on the PlayStation Store. It’s one of those games you can tell is a walking simulator by just glancing at the screenshots. But my partner is kind of into walking simulators, and it was $8 on sale, so I figured why not? Even if it never gets played, at least my purchase will toss a few coins at the developer, who in this case appears to just be a guy named Sergey Noskov.

I had just completed my first session of Tribes of Midgard, which ended in a frustrating match where most enemies seemed to be vastly overpowered compared to my character, and nothing seemed to be going right. The lobby player limit is supposed to be ten, but we somehow had 13 or 14 people in this match, so I think the game was struggling to scale up the enemy strength to match. Anyway, I needed some relief from all that hustle and bustle, so I decided to take a road less traveled and chill out with something as mundane as possible. Cue In Rays of the Light.

At first, I mostly started it because my partner was in the room working on a project on the PC; I like to introduce them to games by playing them and gauging their unsolicited first reaction. If their reactions were on the Richter scale, In Rays of the Light would’ve weighed in at about a 2.3.

For me, though, I found the controls to be a bit sluggish, and the lack of any real engagement to be a bit banal (outside of a few interactive puzzle elements, found notes, and various hanging photographs). At first, anyway. But for reasons beyond my comprehension — and I’m trying to sort those out even now, with the power of hindsight and retrospection — I continued to plod along, solving each smaller puzzle that fed into the larger overall narrative puzzle of the game.

I can’t really explain it. There was no real story to speak of, even with an opening time-lapse cutscene. As far as I could tell, people in this world just stopped existing.

In Rays of the Light

I would later come to understand — as I was being beaten over the head with the revelation — that it was an apparent nuclear incident that left this world uninhabited… aside from the playable character, of course. But who they were and why they were still around seemingly months, if not years, after everyone else vamoosed is not clear either. And yet, with each new moment of frustration, using what few tools and interactive rules I had at my disposal, I’d eventually discover a moment of revelatory bliss as I worked my way further into the labyrinth set out before me. There were real moments of achievement and pride as I solved each successive puzzle and delved deeper into the increasingly meditative, then increasingly spooky, atmosphere and story reveals.

There was a particular section of the game, which took place in an underground fallout shelter, that gave me genuine chills — a feat few games have managed to trigger in my jaded, cold, dead heart. At one point, I had a literal wave of goosebumps wash over my body from left to right. And this is in a game where I know literally nothing can hurt me, and wherein no threatening entity exists.

This was all accomplished by lighting, shadows, and sound. And it all fed into the increasingly intensifying, pervasive dread that led to an almost Hideo Kojima-style ending. I say almost, but it was honestly more affecting than anything I ever saw in the Metal Gear franchise. And In Rays of the Light accomplishes all of this with no dialog aside from some whispered, hard-to-decipher ethereal chatter.

In Rays of the Light

This isn’t a review of In Rays of the Light. I suppose you can think of it more as a testimonial. This isn’t the best walking simulator on the market, but it is the first once I’ve played since Gone Home that has continued to affect me long after the credits rolled. So in that sense, if you are looking for a unique, meditative, linear, none-combat focused gaming experience that can be completed in a few hours, if not less than one hour depending on your prowess, well, you can’t do much better than In Rays of the Light.

The only real regrettable part of this is that the name is easy to forget. The game itself? Not so much.

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