Mental illness is not often targeted in gaming as the main concept of a game. There are plenty of games that taken place in asylums, but you don’t play as a mentally ill patient, you’re normally in a survival horror situation. This is something The Town of Light tackles, or at least attempts to tackle, following the story of Renee. Renee is a 16 year-old girl who was sent to Volterra asylum in Italy because she is a danger to herself and others.
The Town of Light is a story-driven first person game, where you follow Renee’s story of what she has had to live through, and why she is the way she is. This isn’t a horror game, but it is very disturbing as it shows moments in Renee’s life to explain her mental illness, this covers issues such as rape, abortion and more. The majority of the gameplay is exploration of the current abandoned asylum where Renee was resident years earlier, with some simple puzzles and interactions. As the story moves forward, more areas are unlocked for exploration.
The story is told to you by flashbacks as well as animated scenes, and there is a melancholic soundtrack that makes some scenes even more gut-wrenching. This isn’t a fun game to play at all, it’s extremely disturbing when you see and experience what this little girl has gone through in her life, and how she has been let down by her peers, even though it was not necessarily their fault. The developers make it feel so real, and it’s no surprise when the location is real and Renee’s story is based on real experiences from actual inmates, which makes it that much more harrowing.
This is a short game, and you’ll be done in around 4 hours, and at times you will want to stop playing. There are no monsters or serial killers running around after you, but The Town of Light is horrifying without any of this. The developers have tackled a very sensitive subject by simply showing you the truth of mental illness. The initial gameplay feels a little odd, but once you get to the story elements, you will soon forget this, but you won’t forget the story of this game.
The Town of Light is perhaps the most disturbing game we’ve played, and it may not be one that everyone will want to play, but it is nice to see the honesty in this title. Hopefully by exposing more people to the reasons for mental illness, we can come to understand and combat it better. This is a truly horrifying game, and not everyone will be able to handle it, but if you can, be sure to check it out.
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