She and the Light Bearer review
Mojiken Studio’s She and the Light Bearer is a lushly colourful 2D point-and-click adventure following the story of a firefly as she wanders through a forest to restore light and drive away darkness. While it has aspects of a classic fairy tale, a bit of contemporary wording and the very repetitive nature of what is written end up dispelling that feeling somewhat. Looking and playing a lot like a game for young children, it may be hard pressed to keep their attention spans engaged throughout its short but artificially padded play time.
The narrative is framed by scenes of children doing chores in anticipation of a festival of uncertain provenance. From the start, the game exhibits issues with its dialog as the kids go on at length about their annoyance at these preparations. Then an elder from their village comes to tell them the legend of a tiny firefly in a large forest, upon which the festival is supposedly based.
As the old woman begins to weave her tale, the game goes back to the time of the unnamed firefly, the character you will guide on your quest. She finds herself in a forest, hungry and without food, her bag of supplies having been scattered by the wind. She is there seeking “The Mother”, the elusive creator of the forest and its various denizens.
As events unfold, it’s revealed that all is not well in this realm, as dark, shadowy beings known as the Devourers are encroaching further and further into the woods. The firefly is recruited by some of the forest’s more benign inhabitants to help bring light back and save the day. Of course, the characters she meets along the way, in typical adventure fashion, prevent her from advancing until she does something for them first. Throughout her journey the firefly gains a little wisdom, learns some humility, and comes to understand the value of self-sacrifice, although later on these lessons become more abstract and rooted in symbolism, which may go over the heads of some children.
She and the Light Bearer’s story is conveyed through largely linear conversation between the protagonist and other characters. During these moments, cute anime-like close-ups of the firefly and the other speaker are overlaid across the screen. Each character is given several different poses for different emotional states such as joy, fear, annoyance, and being beaned in the head by a stick.
To complement the charming models, everyone speaks in short unintelligible burbles as their dialog lines print out teletype-style. Clicking the mouse will cause the rest of the current line to immediately appear, and clicking again will proceed to the next. Anyone with advanced reading levels will be clicking a lot in this game. It’s not that the characters have a lot to say so much as they are very repetitive. They will frequently reiterate what they’re saying three or four times before moving on, which all makes for very long-winded conversations. Occasionally dialog options are presented on-screen to allow different topics to be chosen, but the selection does not impact the direction of the story in any way.
Outside of dialog, the game plays in typical point-and-click fashion, although you won’t direct the firefly around. Instead, she hovers in a specific area of a scene, only moving when you click on an arrow indicating a pathway to another location. Aside from the directional arrows, all other hotspots are continuously highlighted by small star lines. This permanent indication of hotspot locations cannot be turned off, making it immediately obvious what needs to be interacted with. In some ways this is a bad thing, as it robs the game of any sort of self-directed exploration. At the same time, it’s almost a necessity as the colourful forest backgrounds feature a lot of animation, typically consisting of various leaves and plants blowing in the wind, or the water in a nearby pond rippling gently. Between the high level of detail and the constant ambient motion, it would sometimes be difficult to discern specific areas of interest without assistance.
Puzzle solving is quite rudimentary, with almost all obstacles either being simple fetch quests or, later on, Simon-style musical pattern matching. At any given time there are only a small handful of scenes accessible, and there is never any question as to where items you collect as inventory will need to be used if you pay attention to what the other characters say.
With all the handholding and lack of difficulty, the only thing that slowed me down was clicking through the writing, though even this can be sped up. The game features an Auto Text option, which causes a new line of dialog to begin displaying without a pause as soon as the current line has finished. Add to this an in-game fast forward button that types the dialog at turbo speed, and conversations can be bypassed quite quickly, albeit at the risk of missing some direction in a few cases. All told, the game took me little more than two hours to complete and would likely be closer to half that time if the script had been tighter. I ran through it an additional time with Auto Text and the fast forward mode turned on and finished in under half an hour.
Visually, She and the Light Bearer is quite pleasing to look at. The hand-painted character and background graphics are generally clean and colourful. Although the firefly’s travels are confined to the forest, there is a decent amount of variety in the locations you visit, including a pond that is home to a philosophic riddle-loving reed, a subterranean chamber where a grouchy cowardly potato resides, and a grove occupied by a giant anthropomorphized tree that’s lost its memory. Additional characters include the always secretive orchids and a militarily overbearing mushroom.
Music throughout the game is comprised of very tranquil and relaxing strings, winds, drums, and occasionally other instruments. Even in the moments when the dark Devourers arrive, the instrumentals continue in a calming fashion, reducing any tension that might otherwise build. This may be a welcome consideration for parents whose very young children might be playing alone, as it won’t unduly frighten them. Sound effects tend to be rather sparse and don’t add or detract from the experience in any meaningful way.
All in all, She and the Light Bearer is a very short and easy game that’s padded out by redundant dialog. The lovely graphics, lively background animations, constant hotspot highlighting, and lack of any real challenge may make it an appealing experience for very young players. Parents can decide if they want to try reading the dialog to their children, but its repetitive nature will likely have both wanting to skip ahead to get back to the actual pointing and clicking, simple as it may be.