Dull Light: A Review Of Glare

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When I first started Glare, I wanted to compare it to getting the same meal you always get at your favorite restaurant. You get it because you know it’s a solid choice–you know what you’re getting, and you know you like it.

Halfway through Glare, though, I had to readjust my comparison. Glare is like having the same meal you like to get at your restaurant of choice, but about halfway through, your meal comes to life, gains a set of razor-sharp teeth, and sets to work on clawing out your jugular.

Glare’s story about “defeating the darkness” is inconsequential, and exists in the same way a “plot” does in a Mario game. Here, the plot is nothing more than an excuse to do some good old fashioned jumpin’ and shootin’.

That’s alright, but the most enjoyable part of Glare is its atmosphere, and how it uses lighting to its advantage. It was important that this worked, too, because light is the game’s primary mechanic. Using your glare to destroy the darkness that’s blocking your progress is strangely satisfying, in a “destroy all the pots in the room” sort of way.

What I enjoyed most about the lighting, however, was that as your character takes damage, he loses the glow that surrounds him, and his glare dims. When you are in the darker parts of stages and low on health, the game will abruptly take on a bit of a survival-horror vibe, as you attempt to dodge and shoot at the floating enemies that pursue you.

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With this comes a difficulty spike, though. It’s sudden, so you probably won’t notice it at first, but then the checkpoints begin to spread further and further apart from one another. Then you find yourself beating your head against the wall, wondering what the hell is wrong with this game.

Now, I’m all for difficult platforming games–Super Meat Boy is one of my all-time favorites. The difference between that game and Glare, however, is fairness. For instance, deaths begin to occur because you’re unable to see obstacles before they appear, and in a sense it becomes about memorization rather than skill. Fun for Simon, less so for a platformer.

To be honest, though, the difficulty is not the worst part. Every boss in the five stages of the game are almost exactly the same. Hence, you have to fight them the same. The best boss battles let you make your own concoction of special moves, and let you exercise everything you’ve practiced in a game–that simply doesn’t happen if the bosses are recycled.

Like your favorite comfort food, and like all the games we love, Glare starts with an interesting mechanic, and gameplay that’s tight and responsive. But the promise of uniqueness falls apart halfway through, leaving us with a game that feels stitched together, and ultimately, not worth the effort.