Putting you in control of a young but growing light, Strayed Lights is a game all about overcoming the darkness that lies within.
Or at least that’s our interpretation of this debut title from Embers. The truth is, nothing is made explicit here, leaving you to form your own theories and ideas around what’s actually happening. Some will adore the approach; others will simply feel lost. But now matter how you feel about its story, it’s ultimately the gameplay of Strayed Lights that will make you either love it or loathe it.
Offering little to no direction, Strayed Lights leaves you to explore a world that’s dark and mostly barren. Sure, there’s some flora and fauna to encounter, but it’s kept to a minimum. Thanks to a striking visual style, however, it remains a place that draws you into its corners for the most part. Though there are times where the environs are just a tad bland. In any case, while sightseeing and platforming are a part of Strayed Lights, they’re not the focus. That would be combat.
Perhaps the easiest game to compare Strayed Lights to mechanically is Sekiro. That is to say that it’s very focused on you parrying incoming attacks and then striking when the opportunity arises. Hit an enemy with an attack and you’ll do a little bit of damage to its singular energy bar. Parry one or more of its attacks, however, and much more damage will be done.
What makes things more complicated is the fact that you have two states that you can switch between at will. Enemies will alternate between being blue and orange, and it’s crucial that you match their colour when parrying their attacks in order to keep your energy topped up. When they become purple in colour, however, it’s time to be wary: these attacks can only be dodged.
The parry-heavy gameplay in Strayed Lights won’t be to everybody’s tastes, though it has to be said that attacks are generally well signposted and the parry window is fairly large. There are numerous special skills to acquire and upgrade, too, as well as a range of character upgrades that can help give you the upper hand.
Fighting against more than one enemy at a time can be a bit of a pain, though. And overall, enemy variety is a bit on the slim side. Facing off against the same enemy time and time again is great for learning their patterns, but it does become rather repetitive. Needless to say, Strayed Lights is at its best when you’re facing off against its bosses, which are bigger, stronger, and simply more interesting.
If you’re a fan of games that don’t hold your hand, you might get on well with Strayed Lights. Well, as long as you’re also on board with combat that’s focused around matching enemy colours and parrying attacks. This is a unique title with a striking visual style, but like Marmite, it’s an acquired taste. For all the reasons some will appreciate it, others are only likely to find boredom and frustration.