Italy, late 1930’s.
A young girl, Renée is torn from the life she knows and imprisoned within the walls of a mental hospital in Volterra, Italy.
Lost and confused, and the girl is imprisoned for not knowing where she belongs or what her place is in the world. Authorities label the girl “a danger to herself and others and a cause of public scandal”. The Town of Light explores the deepest thoughts, experiences, and memories of this girl, traveling through the ruins of the mental hospital where she, or at least some part of her, resides.
The storyline of The Town of Light is impressively intriguing. Aside from the incredible amounts of mystery and human suffering found within this title, the game is also full of facts and historical interpretations. The mental hospital explored throughout the adventure operated in Volterra, Italy for nearly one hundred years, beginning in 1887. Around the time setting of The Town of Light, the hospital held over 4,000 patients in total.
The Town of Light is a highly narrative psychological journey told from the first person perspective of a young inmate of the hospital. Time has ravaged the mental facility, and it lies in ruins. The first person perspective of the adventure creates a strong connection between player and character, building sympathy and allowing players to truly live through Renée’s experiences, memories, and ultimately her confusion.
Play is slow-paced and allows players to savor and contemplate the surroundings and situations they encounter. The main objective is to hunt for truth, to solve the mystery of Renée’s confused memories and find out what has really happened to her.
In order to accomplish this goal, players do a whole lot of walking back and forth between different areas and wards of the hospital.
While this walking may be tiresome, there are many objects to interact with along the way. Players can open and close cabinets, windows, and doors and can pick up and observe objects. Graffiti and signs are plastered all over the walls of the institution as well, allowing for several new discoveries each time a corridor is passed.
The clues to Renée’s past are relatively easy to find, and they are always in plain sight, often illuminated in some manner, be it visually or audibly. The progression of the story is also not difficult to follow, and though there is little hand-holding in the game as far as direction, many doors will be locked to players when the doors are irrelevant to the current chapter, and Renée’s dialogue often gives clues as to which part of the hospital must be journeyed to next.
While the non-linear and intriguing storyline are fantastic features of this game, The Town of Light also exceeds the mark graphically. The realistic graphics complement the sad story of Renée, contrasting between vibrancy and darkness, as her mood changes progressing through her memories. The first person perspective is also complemented by the realistic art style of the game, allowing the player to explore a visually stimulating world that paints a horrifying yet beautiful portrait of mental illness and its treatment during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
The visual aspect of The Town of Light is also complemented by an original soundtrack and a host of terrifying noises reminiscent of nightmares and horror films. The combination of the soundtrack and the ambient noises of the adventure are haunting.
The Town of Light explores host of horrifying topics: human suffering, mental illness, the history of treatment of mental illness, and even war. This is not your typical horror game. In fact, it’s not a horror game at all. The Town of Light is purely psychological, devoid of supernatural occurrences or other frightening clichés. Instead, this journey explores the human mind, the presence of mental illness, and extreme loneliness and torture, which makes for one amazing story, or, in the case of The Town of Light’s non-linear narrative, several different amazing stories.