I will admit that when the Jane Titor emailed me about her first commercial visual novel release, The Light at the End of the Ocean, I didn’t know what to expect. I was familiar enough with her blog, but I completely missed the fact that she was a game developer and had she not contacted me I might have missed out on a truly wonderful game—a sentiment I have expressed on more than one occasion.
In The Light at the End of the Ocean a young woman wakes up in a lighthouse with no memory of who she is or how she came to be there. The stoic lighthouse keeper informs her that she crashed her boat on the beach, but offers little else about the circumstances surrounding their meeting. The keeper does however, inform her that help will arrive soon and that she is free to explore the island in the meantime. But, the more the young woman learns about the island and it’s inhabitants, the more unsettling things become. What secrets does the island hold? Who is the mysterious lighthouse keeper? Will the young woman ever discover the truth?
With most mysteries, there’s this sense of accomplishment with each piece of the puzzle you put together, but with The Light at the End of the Ocean there is this sense of foreboding that comes with each new revelation and it’s an oddly unsettling and exciting experience. It’s the same feeling I felt while watching Grave of the Fireflies the first time and when I read Yumiko Ooshima’s oneshot Summertime—you know something is off, but your morbid sense of curiosity won’t let you rest until you understand the entire story and once you get the full scope of the story it’s like… damn.
I wish I could be more eloquent about this, but The Light at the End of the Ocean really hits you hard in the feels and a lot of that is due to Jane Titor’s phenomenal storytelling. There is the central mystery surrounding the Guest, where you have to uncover who she is and why she is on the island. The Guest is just as much of an enigma as the other inhabitants of the island: The Keeper and the Archivist.
At best she has vague memories of her life before the island but perhaps the most intriguing part of her story arc is that she has no idea what she should do with herself if she ever does uncover the truth behind her identity. She kind of goes through the motions of interacting with the Keeper and exploring the island, but you get the sense that her heart really isn’t into finding out much of anything about her strange new surroundings. Sure she is unnerved by everything going on and she does get frustrated with the Keeper when she refuses to answer any of her questions, but there is no sense of urgency to her actions. You spend most of the game just kind of listlessly exploring the island and chatting with either the Keeper or the Archivist.
You can also interact with certain items that will trigger visions about either the Guest’s past or the pasts of the other inhabitants of the island. These short flashes give the player more insight into the characters and how they came to be on the island and with each new memory you start to unravel more of the overarching mystery.
Each of the supporting characters are just as interesting (if not more so) than the Guest, and there were times when she takes a backseat to The Keeper and her story. The Light at the End of the Ocean is just as much her story as it is the Guest’s and there were times where I found myself wanting to spend more time with the Keeper. Her story really tugs at the heartstrings and I really enjoyed learning more about the events that led up to her becoming the keeper of the lighthouse. The Archivist on the other hand more or less remains a mystery, though there are a few subtle clues scattered throughout that hint at her true identity—which is heavily linked with the true nature of the island.
The Light at the End of the Ocean is one of those stories that reminds me a bit of a folk tale or even an urban legend—stories that seem to exist somewhere between reality and fantasy and almost always leave you with an odd unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. Not because the story is especially gruesome or anything like that, but because you know that the story is heading towards a resolution that may not be altogether what you expect; whether that’s a good outcome or a not so great outcome. There’s a desire to want to know more, but the deeper you get into the story the less sure you are about whether you want to know the truth (trust me you do).
The Light at the End of the Ocean is a short game that packs a LOT into it’s short run time and with it’s strong writing and captivating characters, this is sure to be a story that stays with you long after your finish it.
I want to thank Jane Titor for providing me with a review copy of The Light at the End of the Ocean!
- Itch.io: Get the Game
- Dev Site: Official Website
- Twitter: @parttimestorier
- Blog: parttimestorier.home.blog
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