Congratulations! You've been invited to the launch day tour for Lightmatter, the world's first infinitely renewable energy source! Unfortunately, the cornerstone of our operation, the CORE, has been a little overloaded and caused a catastrophic accident, but it's fine! Just make your way out of the facility in a nice and orderly fashion and keep yourself in one piece. You may notice some peculiar effects like hair loss or headaches while navigating our headquarters, but that's perfectly normal.
Oh, and by the by, please keep out of the shadows.
Lightmatter is a first-person Puzzle Platformer Indie Game created by Tunnel Vision Games and released on PC via Steam on January 15th, 2020. Lightmatter puts you in the shoes of a Featureless Protagonist who awakens after an accident in Lightmatter Technologies. Having been left behind in the facility, you must now find your own way out, with only the guidance of the egotistical CEO of Lightmatter Tech, Virgil (David Bateson), to assist you.
However, there's a bit of a snag in your escape: the shadows will eat you alive. Literally. To escape, you must light a way home, using any source of illumination that you can get your hands on: environment, lamps, photon beams, you name it, to solve scores of puzzle rooms impeding your path. Using the light and a little ingenuity, you may just be able to get out without a scratch. But be warned, as nothing in Lightmatter Tech is as it seems, and the dark hides many secrets...
Lightmatter provides examples of:
- All Up to You: Ellen ends up entrusting the duty of destroying Lightmatter to whomever listens to her recording. That person happens to be you.
- Apocalyptic Log: Midway through the game, you pick up tape recordings left behind by an engineer named Ellen, who documents her experiences working at Lightmatter Technologies. She soon discovers that Virgil's partner Arthur is planning to sabotage the Lightmatter project, and helps Virgil and James to get rid of him... only to discover that Arthur was Good All Along and that Virgil is neglecting the lethal effects of Lightmatter in order to advance his own agenda. Ellen thus makes it her mission to destroy Lightmatter in Arthur's place, but evidently never succeeds. She does, however, leave one final message for the person who will finish the job for her: the player.
- Awful Truth: The "infinite" energy that Lightmatter produces is actually the photon crystals siphoning energy from everything around it, including living beings and the shadows. When Ellen discovers this, she makes it her mission to finish what Arthur started and destroy Lightmatter, and ultimately entrusts the task to the player when she is unable to do so.
- Big "NO!": Virgil repeatedly screams these as you begin to overload the CORE.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: The first mechanic you are introduced to is lamps, rudimentary movable objects that project light at long ranges. Halfway through the game, you instead use photon connectors, which project a beam of light when in sight of a power source. By the end of the game, you are introduced to puzzles that use both lamps and photon connectors.
- Broken Aesop: The intended moral of the narrative is that the ends do not justify the means, since Virgil is willing to sacrifice entire cities to give humanity a brighter future. But the man who The Reveal tries to set up as having had the right idea all along, Arthur, tried to shut Lightmatter down by poisoning people and framing the phlebotinum as responsible.
- But Thou Must!: Late in the game, you come across a miniature CORE. Virgil frantically attempts to get you out of the room as quickly as possible, but the player is forced to push the highlighted button to activate the CORE before they are allowed to leave.
- Contrived Coincidence: Most of the game's events are the result of things "conveniently" breaking when they are necessary, thus forcing you to go through the bulk of the facility in order to escape.
- Chekhov's Gunman: James, Virgil's security manager, who repeatedly communicates with Virgil from offscreen but never appears in person. When he finally does show up, he saves the player from being disintegrated at the last minute, giving them the opening needed to destroy Lightmatter.
- Darkness Equals Death: Literally. Touching the shadows will result in you getting absorbed into them.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The secret ending reveals that the shadow anomalies spread to the rest of the world at an exponential pace upon escaping the mountain, killing billions of people and essentially dooming humanity.
- Energy Absorption: This is how photon crystals actually operate, by drawing energy from organic matter and darkness. This causes a cavalcade of problems, as much of Lightmatter Tech's staff who are working on the project lose their hair and are eventually afflicted with severe headaches in absence of light. This also results in the "shadow anomaly", where coming in contact with shadows near a CORE causes rapid cellular degradation, otherwise known as "getting vaporized".
- Evil Laugh: Virgil lets one out as he traps the player and is about to kill them. Unfortunately, he didn't expect James being a Spanner in the Works.
- Explosive Overclocking: This is how the player destroys Lightmatter: by feeding it so much energy that it self-destructs. This is demonstrated earlier in the game with a miniature CORE that you destroy; while the explosion knocks out the power in the immediate area, the absence of a CORE renders the shadows harmless.
- Featureless Protagonist: Nothing about the player is revealed aside from them waking up in a part of the facility that they shouldn't have been in in the first place. Virgil makes several assumptions about the player but it's ultimately never revealed who they actually are.
- Final Boss: The CORE is functionally the final boss of the game, comprised of one massive puzzle room split into multiple individual puzzle rooms where the player must pull four separate switches to destroy the CORE.
- Good All Along: Arthur is initially portrayed in a very negative light by the narrative, with both Virgil and Ellen believing that he wanted to sabotage Lightmatter for his own gain. However, as described by Ellen's Apocalyptic Log, it's revealed that Arthur had genuinely good intentions, and was attempting to destroy Lightmatter because of the potentially disastrous consequences if it isn't shut off.
- Hope Spot:
- Any time you expect to escape the facility via an elevator.
- At the end of the game, Virgil instructs you to pull a lever to shut off the CORE. It works... for about five seconds, until it turns itself back on and it's revealed to be self-sufficient.
- Minimalist Cast: There are no other characters besides Virgil, Ellen, and James. Arthur is mentioned repeatedly and is a major backstory character but never appears directly.
- Multiple Endings: In addition to the normal ending, there is a "secret" ending obtained by waiting 21 minutes in the lever room at the start of the final puzzle without activating Ellen's message. Virgil comes back and explains that the shadow anomalies have caused The End of the World as We Know It, but proclaims that he can build a new world with Lightmatter. The player is invited to join Virgil in his new endeavor, whereupon the player is pronounced the new "James".
- Perpetual Motion Machine: Lightmatter is basically this, as it has a 107% output of the energy used to power it. Unfortunately, No Conservation of Energy doesn't apply, and that extra energy has to come from somewhere...
- Running Gag:
- Virgil's "titles" for the protagonist. He initially refers to the player as "Inspector" before changing to "Journalist", then "Assistant", then back to "Journalist", and finally, "spy".
- Various manners of transportation breaking whenever the player comes into contact with them, typically elevators and bridges. Virgil spends much time lampshading this.
- Numerous references to Portal are scattered throughout the game. Among them, Virgil makes a few jabs at Aperture Science (by name, no less), and a Turret and Companion Cube can be seen in a darkened room late in the game.
- The achievements make several pop culture references as well, but most appropriately among them is an achievement called "Vashta Nerada", meaning "shadows that melt the flesh". Fitting, considering that the shadows in this game do exactly that.
- Upon finding a briefcase, Virgil mentions that before his work on Lightmatter, he did contract work, and that he was the best in the business. Doubles as an Actor Allusion.
- Spiritual Successor: To Portal in particular, being a first-person puzzle game set in a future sci-fi lab that you must escape from and whose progress is being monitored by a Black Comedy Deadpan Snarker with strong sociopathic overtones.
- Unobtainium: Photon crystals, a unique mineral discovered in the mountain where Lightmatter is stationed. It has the ability to indefinitely produce light, but does so by absorbing the energy of organic matter and shadows around it.
- Villainous Breakdown: The normally cool and collected Virgil goes absolutely ballistic when he realizes that you're trying to destroy his life's work.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Virgil. He wants to create infinitely renewable energy to save the future of mankind, but he'll do anything to do it, including sacrificing potentially countless human lives to the shadow anomaly or killing one very persistent video game protagonist.