Lantern is developed by Storm in a Teacup and published by 1C Company. Dev team has had their fair share of atmospheric projects on Steam and I’m pleased to notice that all that previous experience was put to good use and ultimately gave us such a wonderful example of independent gaming.
Developer: Storm in a Teacup
Publisher: 1C Company
Genre: Relaxing game
Release date: 15th of November, 2016
Relaxing games are a well needed niche in video gaming. Every single gamer out there needs to unwind at some point, from the action-orientated titles we play on a regular basis. And as gaming history has already proved, sometimes you can find comfort even in the most simple gameplay mechanics, not even relying on a solid storyline. Calling Lantern a “simple game” would be a mistake though. I’m no stranger to this particular niche since I enjoyed playing similar titles on my PS3 Slim, a few years back. Okami HD, Flower and Journey were all excellent games and a well deserved breath of fresh air within a PSN game library that otherwise thrived on relatively violent action/adventure types. Sadly, since those aforementioned games may never debut onto Steam or on PC altogether, we are stuck ever seeking alternatives.
The game I am reviewing today is a worthy contender to such a distinction. Much like Okami, it also relies heavily on a painting mechanic. While the Nintendo/Sony exclusive sported a cel-shaded engine, in Lantern we have a more common, large pixel style over fully 3D environments. Alas, both games inspire themselves from Asian mythology, a topic seldomly approached in contemporary titles. Not much of a story to spoil here and I won’t be doing it anyways. Suffice to say, you control the eponymous lantern that must bring back color and joy to a gloomy fictional land that is in dire need to shed its far too many shades of gray. Controlling the lantern is easy to master and the difficulty ladder never climbs, so to speak. No real challenge but then again, this isn’t meant to feature any sort of combat option. Get used to this idea and enjoy travelling the large stages that offer enough diversity from one another, to soften the blow from the fact that you only have as many levels as there are seasons within a temperate climate on Earth. That is four, indeed. You start within Summer and progress from there onwards to Autumn, Winter and finally Spring. All in all, if you’re through enough in your painting skills, you should clock about five hours of total gameplay. Not a lot and replay value may not be of the best kind in this case. But it’s gonna be a memorable trip, I assure you. Proof for this lies in the several dozen screenshots I felt compelled to take, within the short timespan of just a few hours of gameplay. Biased or not, I enjoyed the game and appreciated its departure from multiple objectives-focused games on Steam. In Lantern you have your work cut out for you and you can progress at your own set pace. No rush, no enemies (not even time, our constant real life foe) and the perfect getaway for those that dream of the Far East.
Now, I did notice some folks complained in their reviews for Lantern, that the VR support is not something well implemented, or that it causes nausea or something. Let’s get this straight, Virtual Reality headsets are years ahead of showing their true potential. If you ask me, nowadays you just have these overpriced prototypes and you really get to pay the privilege of trying out something that’s only about to become affordable in a couple of years and especially only after more games have “matured” enough to accept VR as more than just a passing fad. It might be spectacular and I am glad that Lantern’s developer is a forward thinker. But was the VR implementation really necessary here? You’ll have to be the judge of that since Virtual Reality doesn’t pose an interest to me now or in the forseeable future.
No one can deny Lantern’s novelty appeal despire being a 3D pixelated title, in the vein of several games already present on the Steam Store. What truly helps it stand out is not the colors and shapes, but their clever mix within the gameplay and the central role played here by diversity in opposition to the initially monochromatic levels. The soundtrack could have used a few more tunes for good variation but even as they are now, you won’t be disappointed.
+ Beautful art style and level design
+ Soothing visuals and relaxing soundtrack
+ VR support
+ Steam Achievements & Trading Cards
– A far too brief experience
– No control rebinding
Result / Final thoughts
Lantern proved to be as blissful a virtual journey as it could ever get by 2016’s PC gaming standards. It doesn’t need to revolutionize anything in order to entertain and relax an audience that has pretty much seen it all. Beauty lies in simplicity more often than not.