Linelight is the first title from indie developer My Dog Zorro, and it certainly makes an incredible first impression. With no explanation or tutorial, you control Dash – literally a glowing, white hyphen – as you maneuver through various puzzles to reach the end of each new world. While I have personally not yet made it to the end yet (I’m stumped in the middle of World 6 – these puzzles get tricky!), there are plenty of challenges to overcome, with several dozen “stages” in each world.
Some puzzles are straightforward: you move Dash over a blue switch to bring a blue platform onto your main track, allowing you to proceed; while others are more complex: in order to activate all three green switches you must manipulate the movements of orange and red “enemy” Dashes to activate two of them, while you hit the third and open the way forward.
One of the aspects that Linelight completely nails is how intuitive and natural the gameplay feels. You’re not thrown into the deep end with those enemy Dashes right away. You start off with the simplest of puzzles that you literally cannot fail just by moving forward, to help you understand how different mechanics work. Thus while there is no proper tutorial explaining how everything works, the simple opening puzzles work just as well, if not better.
Each new world presents new dynamics to help and hinder your progress, from the aforementioned red Dashes that move automatically and orange Dashes that only move when you move, to strings that lengthen Dash in order to redirect foes, hit multiple switches at once, or any number of other things that you might not even think of until the proper opportunity presents itself.
Linelight is incredibly clever, while still wildly accessible for a range of ages, and the relaxing music that plays as you progress helps you keep a level head while trying to crack the particularly challenging puzzles. Some stages are even set up to sync up with the music, which only adds to the enjoyment.
On top of the standard puzzles you must complete to progress, there are also yellow gems littering each world that can be collected by solving extra puzzles (many of which can be directly bypassed if you’d rather just continue onwards), as well as hidden green gems that are only revealed by finding hidden paths that could stem off of practically anywhere along the way. The green gems’ puzzles are easily the most difficult of the lot, and I have yet to collect one green gem that didn’t give me an immense feeling of satisfaction for having completed its puzzle.
In fact, “satisfying” is probably the best word to describe Linelight. Even when you find yourself stuck on a puzzle, you’ve still got some chilled out, peaceful music to listen to, and often times if I just turned it off for a bit and came back later with a fresh perspective, everything falls into place rather quickly, again providing that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
On a completely unexpected note, in this unassuming puzzler where you control a Dash, alongside other various Dashes, there are moments throughout where you actually feel feelings for these colorful lines on your screen. Several segments show you releasing a red or orange Dash from wherever they might be trapped, and as mentioned before, you need them to hit a switch for you. However sometimes their paths continue onward, and they travel parallel to you, and you for a while, and you must solve the next string of puzzles “together.” Once they’ve helped you get past ten or fifteen stages, their paths then veer off-screen, and they’re gone.
They have no personality. They say nothing. They have no defining features other than their colors and actions. Yet somehow, in such a short time, you build a bond with them and feel a sense of camaraderie that makes you a little bit sad when they leave and you’re left alone again. It is an impressive feat, and one I would have never guessed possible from such a – for lack of a better word – plain-looking game.
Try as I might, I just can’t think of anything negative to say about Linelight. When you have to retry a stage, you start it fresh with no consequences; no working your way back through the last dozen puzzles again. When you reach a new world, there are new mechanics introduced that feel just as fresh and exciting as they do natural and straightforward. Eventually in the later stages everything you’ve learned gets thrown together in fantastic conundrums that take precise timing and careful planning, and when it all comes together you feel like you’ve just pulled off an elaborate Rube Goldberg device that rewards you with more new and exciting challenges still. Yet all the while, even throughout the challenge, nothing ever feels impossible or rage-inducing.