I wrote most of this post about a year ago, before I moved to Japan. Thought I’d postpone it until I’d beaten the game, but I forgot about it in the craziness. I still haven’t beaten it, but it’s about time I posted this, because the maddeningly grammatically-incorrect Til Morning’s Light (it should be till, dammit) is, despite my righteous grammar fury, an unexpected success. The mobile game is available on Amazon Fire, Android tablets and through the iTunes store. On Amazon it’s $3.99 as of this (updated) writing, and thankfully there’s enough good here to merit the price.
Developed by WayForward, Til Morning’s Light is a cartoony horror-lite romp in the style of family films like ParaNorman and Monster House. You play as teenager Erica Page, a timid, slightly nerdy girl who is pressured into visiting a haunted house by two of her “friends.” No sooner has Erica entered the house than her frenemies board up the front door behind her, stranding her in the house where–GET THIS–spooky stuff starts happening. A sinister voice makes it clear that Erica isn’t welcome here, but she also won’t be allowed to leave because villainy. Then a monster appears, and you have to beat it into gooey oblivion (cartoony, sparkly goo, of course).
As far as the narrative goes, that’s about all we know at first, though of course as she explores the haunted mansion Erica learns more about its supernatural denizens and what she must do to escape. Interestingly enough, Amazon also released a free audiobook tie-in, which fleshes out the story and lends Erica’s character a little extra depth. It’s actually pretty fun, if you don’t mind YA fare, but be warned: the teenisms are overwhelming. “Breve” is not a word that should be uttered by mortal mouths. (That’s /breev/, short for abbreviation, not the super-thick espresso/heavy cream concoction that I feel sure at least one of you will now order the next time you make a coffee run.)
The game involves a lot of exploration, frantically tapping on objects to discover clues and tools and solving puzzles to proceed. That’s a good two-thirds of it. The other third is combat, which involves tapping or sliding your finger on on-screen prompts that appear during fights with monsters. You get various weapons throughout the game, beginning with your trusty flashlight, and they do increasing amounts of damage to the baddies. The developers introduce several touch patterns–dragging your finger along arrows; tapping shrinking circles just as they line up with, er, other circles; frantically smashing a swarm of, uh, circles–to add a little variety to fights, but the combat does get pretty stale after a while.
While the game is clearly aimed at younger audiences and has a pleasantly cartoonish aesthetic that makes it hard to find it frightening, it deserves some credit for actually generating some creepy atmosphere in a few places. Some of the long, dimly-lit corridors, where there’s no background music and weird will-o’-the-wisp-like lights drifting through the shadows, are spooky in a very pleasing, goofy way. There’s also this:
I’ve mentioned a couple of times how I love this cartoonish horror with lots of glowing greens and purples and things which are conceptually frightening (that’s a reanimated dessicated corpse with glowing eyes up there, after all) but in practice are just kind of fun. Til Morning’s Light captures this atmosphere admirably well, and where it fails in game design (the combat gets really old really quick) it more than succeeds in (lighthearted) storytelling and atmosphere.
Edit: Originally I mistakenly suggested this title was available on Steam. Don’t know where I got that idea–seems it’s only on mobile platforms.