Strayed Lights was one game I was really looking forward to checking out at PAX East 2023 and was delighted at how the demo not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them. Strayed Lights offers a unique concept where players take on the form of what’s described on the game’s Steam page as a “tiny, growing light seeking transcendence.”
Keeping things intentionally vague along the lines of games like Journey or Abzu, Strayed Lights’ narrative offers no dialogue or text. This worked well when it came to encouraging me to branch out and explore, pay close attention to events that transpire, and dig deeper into the core message the game is working to convey. Speaking of games like Abzu or Journey, Strayed Lights complements its wordless narrative with a gorgeous soundtrack courtesy of composer Austin Wintory.
Outside of its already intriguing premise, Strayed Lights offers up some truly unique, engaging combat that feels almost rhythmic in its approach. Essentially, the player is able to switch between energy colors like blue or orange. In matching the color of the enemy, you’re able to parry and strike back effectively. If you don’t match, you can’t parry. Simple enough, right?
Adding to this, enemies have more powerful attacks reflected in more of a purple tone that you can’t parry, but can dodge. Rather than serve as an inconvenience, Strayed Lights equally rewards you for dodging as it does parrying and attacking. More specifically, once you’ve successfully parried and dodged enough attacks, you get the satisfaction of unleashing a powerful wave of energy in a way that almost feels like a Super Saiyan transformation in the Dragon Ball series.
As I worked my way through various enemies, each with their own creative designs, I found myself really getting into the rhythm of this system and it felt almost relaxing in a way. Switching from blue, to orange, to dodging powerful purple attacks, the combat in Strayed Lights has a groove to it that resonated with me as a fan of rhythm games.
The demo gave me a lot of room to move around during combat as well which I appreciated, with the areas I explored being wide open and sparse in terms of obstacles. There’s a distinct emptiness to the parts of Strayed Lights that I explored that, rather than detract from the game, enhanced it for me. My focus was never pulled away from foes during combat, and I didn’t find myself too distracted or feel like there was too much going on to process when it came to admiring the game’s colorful scenery.
While there’s still a lot I don’t know about Strayed Lights, the time I spent with it at PAX East 2023 convinced me this is a game I not only want, but need, to see more of. I look forward to doing that soon, with Strayed Lights set to be released on April 25 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, and PC (Steam, Epic, GOG).