They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So when a game is touted as being a Hollow Knight clone, the hope might be for a game oozing class and an intriguing challenge. The question is, in this state, can Gleamlight even be considered a compliment at all, or is this just a pretender to the throne?
Developed by DICO, Gleamlight has you taking the role of Gleam: a tiny wizard-like character in a world of glass – stained glass to be precise. Unfortunately, the glass isn’t the only thing that is stained in this experience. The premise of the game is hard to define, giving the impression it doesn’t really know what it is, and as the player, you may be struggling to identify where the focus lies. It’s described as being about exploration and entrancing experience. It put me in a trance, that’s for sure. Slash and swipe, hope for the best and move on.
In order to open up routes to progress, Gleam will need to smash red glass balls hidden throughout, but despite its Metroidvania inspiration, everything feels linear. Furthermore, luck seems to play a big part in Gleamlight – which can be a natural part of any game – but when everything feels dependent on it, it just becomes infuriating. You can jump off platforms and look to land on one below but then miss it for no reason at all.
The graphics look clean enough, but as soon as you try to move your character things go downhill quicker than an Olympic Ski jumper. You start with Y being used to swipe your sword and B used to jump. Random enemies range from what look like spiked paper aeroplanes to what can only be described as flying worms. Difficulty also seems wildly unbalanced. Taking damage twice from spikes will result in death, but if you stand inside bosses you can destroy them unhindered. Honestly, the boss battles in Gleamlight are some of the worst I have encountered. Good boss battles expect you to learn attack patterns to outwit them. In Gleamlight there is none of that at all.
Every time you despatch a boss, you unlock a new skill. You have got to work that out for yourself though, and it tends to be by accident. After the first boss, the L shoulder button allows you to dash, for example. It can come in handy when it finally clicks, but again the animation is less than fluid which can make it difficult to utilise alongside a troublesome control scheme that’s inconsistent at best, with a clear input delay before you eventually lurch into action.
It gives me no pleasure to say it but everything in Gleamlight feels flat. Absolutely flat. Even the music cannot save the day here. If you imagine a sleep aid app then that’s what you get. If the gameplay isn’t enough to send you to sleep then the music will!
Gleamlight feels random, badly designed, and put together with little thought. You drop off a ledge thinking there is a platform to land on only to find some spiked enemy in the way. The sound of smashing glass means you have died. You start again from a save point and continue the adventure from there, but I find myself asking, ‘do I have to?’ The only thing reminiscent of Hollow Knight here is just how hollow the whole affair is. If 2020 was a game, Gleamlight would be it.
Hollow Knight this is not. With a flawed control system, dreadful music, and painfully unfair platforming, this is a game you will want to end as quickly as possible. Thankfully it is over in about an hour.