One Upon Light – Review

Title   One Upon Light
Developer  Singapore University of Technology and Design
Publisher  Singapore University of Technology and Design
Platform  PS4
Genre  Puzzle
Release Date  October 13th, 2015
Official Site

oneuponlightrev1When you think of light and dark, you think of the struggle between the wind and Donald Trump’s hair, or a sense of fucking decency and David Cameron, or, to bring things back to gaming, Alan Wake and the Taken. Taking this concept at the most basic level and weaving a nifty puzzler out of it are Singapore University of Technology and Design, who have crafted One Upon Light – a top-down monochromatic puzzle game for the PS4.

Waking up in the wrecked remains of the Aurora Science Laboratory, with no memory of what happened, you have to work your way through each level to pick up documents and newspaper clippings, which shed more light (sorry) on the disaster that led to you being where you are and how you are. While the environment around you may be mangled and broken, whatever happened hasn’t left you entirely unscathed either. Your arms and legs may still be intact but you have somehow developed an aversion to light. Just lingering a few seconds will see you frazzle and collapse, so the game charges you with avoiding it at all costs.


The gameplay is reasonably simple but effective, and initially comes with a reasonable difficulty curve, so you won’t be chewing your thumbsticks off in rage – at first. Your aim, each level, is to reach the far side of the facility and grab the next sheaf of documents to help piece together just what has happened, traversing all manner of obstacles as you do so. Passages, lamps, lit floors… none of these things seem especially lethal, especially given the often spikey extremes of the game’s puzzle genre kin, but there doesn’t need to be anything more shiny, spikey, or elaborate because the only enemy here is light. And there is plenty of that. What should be a simple jaunt down a corridor turns into a minefield of lamp light, whether it is swinging gently, creating welcoming arcs of shadow, or flickering past cogs and girders, creating fleeting safe havens.

oneuponlightrev3Of course things are never as simple as pattern memorisation and quick reflexes… pretty soon the game has you pushing blocks in front of light spills to create enough of a shadow in which to slip past, or fiddling with automated crate carriers to send a much-needed box to distant parts of the facility in order to trip a switch or create dark patches of safety on its way – ideal for a quick dash. As the game becomes more tricky with its demands, the Shadow Echo recorder is introduced. The handy device can record shadows in order that you can preserve them and utilise the safety they represent, even after the original shadow has swung or shifted away. And here’s where things start to go (very quickly) from gentle to ARGH ohforfuck’ssake. The automatic checkpoints seem to get further apart (whether they actually are or not is another matter – maybe it just takes so long to get past small sections later on that it can seem longer), leading to much frustration and repeating of hard work.

I found the game to be divided. While I almost breezed through the first half, the second stopped me dead in my tracks, and I spent more time on just two levels than I did on the entire first half – often just milling about trying to work out where I was going and what I was supposed to be doing next. I eventually got myself irretrievably stuck between a crate and two unmoving doors (don’t ask), and after surveying how far I’d come over that level I promptly retired – the thought of restarting it was too much to bear. A typical reaction to a puzzle game, perhaps, but the wisest choice at the time for my anger levels.


Visually One Upon Light is lovely – the top-down style presenting a largely unfettered view of the twisted and trashed remains of the lab, painted in a simple but gentle monochromatic style that’s easy on the eye, with few distractions. While some colour may have gone down a treat, it is in keeping with the game’s concept. What was a shame was that I didn’t notice much from the audio, which was a let-down. It meant that the game lacked in atmosphere, somewhat, but for a puzzler it isn’t as much a sin as it would be in other genres.

oneuponlightrev5While One Upon Light won’t stop your grinnin’ and fuck up your linen, it’s a gentle, respectable puzzler, with a good concept and easy-on-the-eye art style. While the difficulty jumps mid game and there will be more than a few frustrations as you wander around wondering just where to go and what to do, or how you use your Shadow Echo device to best effect, the puzzling is decent and a nice change from spikes, lava pits, and fuck-you-up timer levels.

  • Great light/shadow concept
  • Gentle monochromatic style
  • Refreshing puzzling – no over-reliance on spikey hot death
  • Enjoyable
  • Managed to accidentally get myself stuck (literally), necessitating a scream-
  • inducing level restart
  • Seemed like a big leap in difficulty around the midway point
  • Uninspiring sound added to a lack of tension and atmosphere

One Upon Light is a gentle, lovely looking puzzle game with a great concept. Shunning spikes and switching to light as a source of sudden death, it introduces some original gameplay as you utilise the shadows to progress, while the game slowly twists the difficulty dial – before wrenching it about.

While it isn't bombastic or frenetic, there is something to be said for its understated feel, both in art and gameplay, and it was, for a time, oddly relaxing to play, not to mention enjoyable. If you are a puzzle fan, it's worthy of a place in your collection, even if just for the change of pace. If you aren't then it may be a good place to start, or simply take time out with.

Our review policy

Last five articles by Lorna


One Comment

  1. Rook says:

    This sounds like my kind of game. Played a couple of monochrome games with puzzles before and enjoyed them. The thought of light as the enemy, as in it hurting you as opposed to leading you to being spotted, is interesting.

Leave a Comment