When it comes to horror games we don’t necessarily feel the need to research before playing, you just jump straight in and get a few scares. The Town of Light, from Italian developer LKA, is different. The story is based entirely on a very real horror that was still in use up until 1978, before being shut down due to its cruel practices towards patients. When you add a dash of realness to any project, be it a game, literature or a movie, the horror changes from something that can be amusing to an act which can psychologically scar.
It’s March 12, 1938. Renée, who is 16 years old, is ripped out of her world, locked up and deprived of everything. Her only fault was that she didn’t know what her place in the world was. “A danger to herself and others and a cause of public scandal,” wrote the police headquarters. The horror of being locked away, forgotten and treated like a misfit is told from the first-person perspective. As Renée you must uncover the truths behind your incarceration, delving deeper into the dark world of Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra – a very real place.
The story is set in Italy in the first half of the 20th Century, in a place which unfortunately for thousands existed, and has been meticulously reconstructed by developers LKA. The hallways and examination rooms are decaying, ghosts of the past are wandering aimlessly, and nature is reclaiming what was once hers. By exploring and interacting with the environment you must put together the pieces to relive the history of the protagonist through her confused viewpoint. The interesting element of The Town of Light are the decisions you make along the way, all of which affect the story, with the game featuring several possible outcomes as you progress.
Relying heavily on the narrative, The Town of Light strays away from typical jump scares and ‘scary monsters’ in the dark. Instead, it focuses on informing the player about the cruel events that 20th-century patients suffering from illnesses went through and, referring to myself, puts an anger in your mind that other horror games couldn’t.
From the tall arched windows and doors to the forgotten corridors and ownerless wheelchairs, the environments aren’t an eye sore. The narration is a little wooden at times but overall pleasing and gives an air of desperation to the narrative in later scenes. Some audio clipping and leveling problems with music in particular chapters ruins the immersion, but that won’t stop you from continuing to seek the truth.
If it’s a horror game with a deeper narrative that you seek, <em>The Town of Light</em> will most likely tick all your boxes. It’s a game that relies heavily on the real human horrors of the early 20th-century, and the dedication from the developers to tell this story in the right manner has paid off.