I’ve played a lot of weird games in my time, but Golden Light takes the biscuit. It then turns the biscuit into a pile of meat that wants to eat you. Then you attack the meat with a fish head and the meat falls in love with you…
You’re out for a nice picnic with your partner. She’s talking gibberish for some reason, but maybe that’s why you love her. You decide to go and get her a rose, only to return to the sight of a giant hand made of meat pulling her into a hole in the ground that you immediately leap into in pursuit. And so starts out your adventure in Golden Light. Welcome to The Gut.
Golden Light is a first-person horror rogue-lite with elements of sheer insanity that will have you assume the developers were taking some very interesting mind-altering substances. You’ll travel from floor to floor in The Gut, a labyrinth made of meat, finding keys to venture ever lower in pursuit of your lost love. Be wary though, as nigh-on every object you encounter, from vending machines to computers, could be a sentient pile of meat baying for your blood.
You can fight back of course, using the various weapons you’ll find lying around. These range from simple melee weapons like knives and pipes, to ranged tools such as pistols and shotguns. They aren’t that effective though, as the weapons you use are dead unless you rub meat on them, bringing them to life and doubling their damage. There are items you can use too, like fish heads and eyeballs with fingers. This being a rogue-lite means that you won’t know what these items will do until you use them on yourself or your enemies. Maybe they’ll explode, perhaps they’ll heal, or in some instances they’ll make you fall in love with meat to the extent that you’ll refuse to fight them.
Often it’s a better option to avoid fighting altogether, and stealth is your friend for this reason, amongst others. You generate sound as you do anything, and you’ll cause objects in the environment to reveal themselves as meaty monsters. Your weapons also make sound, but not just in the traditional way. If your weapon is alive, it will have a sound range as well, making you more vulnerable. Combat isn’t really your speciality, so you’ll want to forgo weapons frequently unless you are on a boss level, else you’ll likely die quickly.
As Golden Light is a rogue-lite, you will die frequently. At this point you are transported to a field, complete with a talking bicycle with arms, a giant playing a grand piano, and a creature who can send you back into The Gut at your most recent level (depending on your difficulty level). Look, I said this game was insane and I stand by that.
The stages themselves aren’t terribly big, but they feel quite labyrinthine and it’s easy to get turned around as you avoid monsters and traps. There are maps scattered around that help you find your way, and you can take these to orient yourself as well as use as a weapon. The visual style — feeling somewhat like the otherworld from Silent Hill — makes it hard to discern where you are exactly, which adds to the sense of unease, as does the sound design which will have you freezing solid at the slightest sound in case you’ve been heard. It’s surprisingly terrifying at times!
Being honest, at first I thought Golden Light was a meme game, filled with silly visuals and odd use of text to make everything out to be a big joke, but there’s something to this that makes it a surprisingly solid experience. It took a couple of hours for me to get to the point that I’d worked out enough of the systems to have a good go at it, and up until that stage it was a bit of a slog. Once through that initial hurdle though, it felt quite fun to play, but the unsettling atmosphere still persisted.
This is in Early Access at this point, so there are a few oddities here and there that I hope will be ironed out. There are no understandable visual options — what does Resolution X1-4 mean? — and there’s some really bizarre mouse acceleration that I can’t seem to get rid of. I also suspect that finding keys every floor before fighting a boss could get a bit tiresome over a large number of playthroughs, but the experience as it stands is pretty solid. Golden Light is certainly an acquired taste — and that’s the taste of madness. I really can’t think of anything else quite like it, and for that reason alone it’s worth a look.
You can find Golden Light on Steam.