Lightwire is the nonPareil Institute’s first jump out of the flooded Apple Store and onto one of the biggest digital gaming distributions out there, as well call it “Steam”. For those of you who are unaware, nonPareil is a creative career charity for adults with the autism spectrum. Students of the program can make a living out of creating games, writing novels or illustrating comics, such as the one I saw while at the QuakeCon 2017 nonPareil booth.
I was surprised, but graceful to see this organization finally appear at a gaming convention. This group sort of hits me right home as I was diagnosed with autism at birth.
I saw my childhood in these autistic game developers, especially when attempting to interact with one of them and seeing how far I’ve gone with maintaining the disability after connecting to so many wonderful beings who helped me improve on my social skills over the years. In a specific way, I see my childhood from playing Lightwire.
What is Lightwire though? It’s a casual strategy game where you have to collect all of the energy nodes by lining up limited shots with sliding your mouse (or sliding your finger if you wish to play this on your iOS device). There’s a heavy emphasis on 6th grade multiplication/division, with each individual node having a different value on them.
In order to move on to the next stage, you have to be left with positive energy after clearing all the nodes, so choosing where you line or shots in what order matters more than blindly firing at everything. The more positive energy you collect in the end results in currency for upgrades to increase your in-level stats, but sometimes enough positive energy is required to press-onto new levels.
I’m reminded of Bubble-Bobble with how the gameplay works, which is perfectly cool with me as I absolutely love Bubble-Bobble’s unique puzzle design and I certainly will complement any indie game that are able to be inspired to craft a new layer out of a familiar formula, equally as much when games are able to become the right type of innovation.
I feel like for the most part, this game works at creating an enjoyable itch for your problem-solving brain or for kids of this grade level to learn new skills. Now knowing the final product comes with a tutorial, I was able to easily learn the basics to then take on progressively complex courses with new nodes and weapons being thrown in the mix.
I sound like I’m ready to give this game the highest recommendation, and it’s helped that we’ve got a decent metaphorical autism story about having to gather all of the energy out there in a repeated fashion to keep your planet earth happy, later to be tempered by a few unforeseen bumps in the road. And my gosh, I love Lightwire the A.I. character from just being one of the most adorable things in recent video games.
Chase, what are you doing?! Give this game the extremely high “Recommended” stamp and move on!….I can’t. On my first impressions, I mentioned that this indie looks only alright from presentation once you port this iOS title onto a gaming PC, but I did not get a great glance at everything within the visuals, possibly because I was too tired from running around to notice.
Once I woke up with a cup of coffee, seeing the entire ship, the plastic character models, some very messy animation and weird editing, this started to look like every bad indie game I reviewed before where the developers were a bunch of jokers, slapping assets together and charging money for them. The way the humans wave there arms or upper torso around like stiff rag-dolls remind me of Garry’s Mod.
You don’t have to get the biggest budget and years worth of talent, but when you put something up on Steam, GoG.com, PSN, XBLA or Nintendo eShop, you have to up your game more than what you put in the Apple store.
Maybe don’t try for AAA quality, just get simple! Have maybe a comic book style, voxel, water painting, or whatever art style you wish to use and simplify your models so they work around your game’s presentation. Eldritch or Lovely Planet Arcade can be used as small to no budget indies with a distinct style (both of which were developed by a one-person team).
I just don’t want this being compared to all of those shovelware products on Steam, because it’s not and it’s a very clever puzzler if you can get past the graphics. It don’t help that there’s no resolution options, so the lower half of the text during the cinematics went under my computer screen from the default resolution.
If I have to dive deep into the technical aspects…the ship’s captain doesn’t make any sound whenever he walks on stage, but you do from walking around the ship. There are lines read where a character’s lip sync would be delayed. There’s two points in the story where I regretfully chuckled at how certain characters were animated.
I really hate being this critical on a project that was made with pure love and heart, but I can’t give this a pass and tell a game like Space Trader: Merchant Marine to screw off over the same issues.
It’s extremely heartbreaking, because the playful narrative brought be back to when I was growing up, role-playing my imagination. I enjoyed the gameplay as well, encouraging my mind to be active with fun, strategic multiplication with progressing challenges and an online leaderboard system to compete on.
After completing the game in 2 1/2 hours, I spent more trying to achieve a gold medal on the stages I haven’t. I seriously liked this game, but I have to pull back on saying that more nonPareil games need to be on Steam if they are going to look this visually jarring. I can give a pass to stock sound effects, but when your presentation can distract me from the story in a bad way at times, then there’s problem.
This is one of the longest written reviews I have constructed because I want these students to be even better, gain new skills and unleash their wild ideas as something others can experience and go “man, this awesome project was powered by autism?! Hire them now!”. What I see instead, employers will take a look at the trailer for about 7 seconds or a see a screenshot of the ship and crew members, toss the demo reel in the trash bin and move on without playing it first.
I definitly want to hear more from the voice of Lightwire and I think the script writer is on the right path, but this could have benefited more from being a complete 2D game or with a simpler style. If you are an iOS gamer, it’s a good game for being adorable as heck, yet a smart puzzle game to get your brain up and moving,
For playing Lightwire on PC…this is Math Heads for the new generation of 6th grade students, and can’t be anything higher than enjoyable.