(Review archived from February 12, 2023)
She and the Light Bearer is a game with personality and heart, that much is clear. What we have here is a point and click adventure game with a gorgeous dreamy art style that serves well as backdrop for the creation myth fable it conveys. It’s a game that aims for a similar type of emotional resonance found in Undertale and (to a lesser extent) To The Moon. But while personality and heart are aspirational qualities in a game … they aren’t everything.
The ‘story within a story’ begins with a village elder teaching the village children about the myth of the The Firefly (the titular ‘Light Bearer’) and The Mother (the titular ‘She’). Basically it’s a creation myth in which The Mother, who created the forest and all its inhabitants, has all but disappeared from the world. So the Firefly has been entrusted by his elders to seek out and find The Mother in order to restore balance to the forest. And he will do so by means of some incredibly simple puzzles and a point & click interface. It’s a sweet story, often times cloyingly so, but all the same features a couple of genuinely touching moments particularly in its denouement.
It’s just that as a game … it’s not super compelling. In point of fact it might have even worked better as a visual novel, being as perhaps with a couple exceptions, the game play elements don’t feel like they really add much to the experience. Part of this is due to the fact I played the desktop port of a mobile game (albeit on my Steam Deck), and for whatever reason I’ve never played a port of a mobile game that didn’t have all the telltale features of a mobile game, namely this exact sort of light and breezy ‘gameplay’ that feels at odds with more capable game focused platforms. Perhaps I’m casting too broad a net though. I have played ports of mobile adventure games of this exact mold that I found to be incredible (vis-à-vis the Cube Escape series). But those games were able to succeed based on the strength of their puzzles, and unfortunately, She and the Light Bearer doesn’t quite have that strength.
So would I recommend this game and if so to whom? Well, I do think this game could resonate well with a younger audience who might find some real enjoyment working through the games simple puzzles and gentle storyline. The type of kiddo who enjoys slightly more enigmatic story craft than typical Disney fare (think: Studio Ghibli, Song of the Sea and that sort of thing), will almost undoubtedly enjoy the story of the brave little Firefly and his quest to seek out The Mother. Seasoned adventure gamers, even those who enjoy saccharine sweet fables, will probably want to seek out brighter standard bearers than this one.*
* At the time of this writing, She and the Light Bearer goes for $9.99 on Steam. I picked it up for 90% off and earned all achievements in 5.5 hours which includes the one time I fell asleep while playing the game. That kind of playtime makes sense for a $1.00 game, but I’d strongly advise waiting for a sale if you’re at all interested.