Laserlife – What We Think:
Laserlife, by Choice Provisions, is a rhythm game about the memories of a dead astronaut. It’s an abstract ride through Outer Space where you slowly uncover more about who this astronaut was. It offers a different experience from typical rhythm games, subverting expectations in some interesting ways.
The game’s main menu shows the skeletal remains of a dead astronaut floating in outer space. Once you start the first level, you are set along a path through weird, otherworldly imagery. Eventually, you notice familiar objects in space. A couple of toys are scattered around; a giant teddy bear and a toy train reveal themselves. When the level ends, the message “I remember a world of play” pops up on the screen.
Shedding Light on the Past
It becomes clear that you are revealing small bits of this dead astronaut’s memory. Fragments remind the astronaut of who they were before they died, further uncovering the game’s narrative. You learn more bits and pieces of the person, but unfortunately it doesn’t go deep enough. The fragments are mostly general and not as specific as I would have liked.
Things like “I remember being on the open sea” after one level are too vague. And the levels themselves don’t elaborate on these memories, either. By the last message at the end of the game, I could see what the developers were going for, but it failed to develop a narrative to make you care about the deceased astronaut. Showing more insight into who this person was would have given ending have more of an emotional impact. As it stands, the narrative feels inessential and like a wasted opportunity.
Remember The Tuscan Sunrises In Alpha Centauri?
The levels look OK, but the design could have utilized the themes of memory better. For example, the level that ended with, “I remember the warmth of summer” could have used more summertime imagery. Instead, the levels are mainly abstract space imagery up until the very end.
It doesn’t help that most of the levels give off the same tone. Levels don’t stand out from one another and feel like a random mishmash of abstract imagery. Overall, the levels leave something to be desired from a creative standpoint.
The way you interact in the game involves two strands of colored light. You simultaneously control the two strands, each one dedicated to an analog stick. The goal is to gain a high score by collecting notes within each level. You collect these notes by pressing down on the trigger buttons when you are near them – each trigger button for each strand of light. Compared to most rhythm games, you have more freedom to move around.
Off The Mortal Coil
Instead of being tethered to a multiple lane highway like in Audiosurf, you’re free to move about the circular space that encompasses the screen. It’s similar to how you can move about in games like Rez, except you are controlling two light beams at once. This freedom means that there is more of a focus on accuracy. Moving each light beam to the exact spot on the screen makes the game more of a challenge.
Another challenging aspect comes from having to control two light beams at once. I have to admit that when I first wrapped my head around the controls, it felt a little unwieldy. Moving both analog sticks at the same time wasn’t a problem, but having to press the trigger buttons to collect nodes made my hands cramp at first.
Stretchy Trigger Finger
Many times, the game will make you move the analog sticks all the way left or right, while at the same time requiring that you press the trigger buttons to collect nodes. This unique stretch took some time to get used to. This may not be an issue for everyone, but be aware if you have a large controller that it might potentially be awkward.
Most of the tracks would fall under the chill-out genre and its electronic beats and synthesizer combo fits in with the space setting perfectly, giving off a mysterious, trance-like vibe. I would have liked the music to have been more memorable, though, as tracks seemed to blend into one another. The music overall isn’t bad, but it isn’t as varied as I would have hoped.
Chargin Up Mah Lasers
I appreciate that Laserlife tried to do something different; instead of playing it safe, it aimed to create a more abstract, unfamiliar experience. The way the narrative was uncovered was a fantastic idea, but I feel like it could have used a lot more polish. As it stands, Laserlife offers a solid rhythm game experience for those looking for something more chill and abstract.
Laserlife is available on Steam.
Watch the trailer for Laserlife below: