Like a bad case of food poisoning from a gourmet meal, Golden Light takes us on a journey of intestinal gripes complete with stomach cramps and feverish meat sweats. It is surprisingly rare to come across an idea so original that you have to do a double-take to grasp the concept.
But here we have a game set in a delirious world of grisly, stomach-churning meat. Every morsel is a gruesome homage to carnivorous chaos and even the minutest detail revolves around living, edible protein.
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The story of Golden Light is somewhat hard to digest. After settling down for a nice picnic in a summery meadow, your girlfriend is grabbed by a giant hand that drags her down an oesophageal hole to the depths of the ‘Gut’. Without hesitation, you follow her down the pulsing orifice and find yourself in the ‘meat zone’.
The meat zone is as dank and grotesque as you’d imagine, but even more surreal is the Gut’s pseudo-home layout. You manoeuvre your way around what looks like a grotty home office or a lounge dripping with bodily mucus. Random, bizarre objects with sinister and disturbing connotations are strewn around waiting to be found. Each one has a different result depending on when, where and how you use it.
And needless to say, they are all meat…
You find an ‘eye with fingers’ and naturally you decide to eat it. This prompts a message “They are coming for you”. You eat a fish head and your blood is cleansed. You throw the fish head at some ‘legs’ and the legs explode. The logic behind the game’s mechanics is non-existent which makes the surprises unique and genuine alongside being utterly weird.
The dreamlike state has you living in a complete nightmare realm supplemented by off-key notes and a slight woozy lag as you saunter around – aware that the walls are watching your every move…
The Gut is layered like a descending tower and your aim is to collect keys from the guard of fleshy, tumorous creatures that skulk within. The ever-present quandary is whether to avoid or attack them. The game keeps track of the harm you do to your environment. The Gut is a living entity and not instinctively your enemy. In fact, it loves you at first. You can tell by your meaty ‘diary’ that keeps track of its affection for you. But the more you hurt the Gut the more it hates you and the more it will aggressively punish you with belligerent adversaries.
Golden Light is an FPS Horror with roguelike elements. Levels are randomly generated and death results in a loss of equipment and a resetting of your environments and skills. Meaty items no longer have the same effect either, so your meat-tasting begins anew to establish what each snack does for you this time around.
The main difference between this and other roguelites is that you restart at the beginning of the level you have reached and not entirely from scratch. This has more of a profound influence on the game than might be expected. It allows the player to utilize trial and error to try out different ways to suit their play style.
Regardless of your actions each stage usually ends in frenzied meat-filled mayhem as creatures strive to stop you from getting the last key to move on. Most of the time however, it’s your choice whether to tiptoe stealthily to keep the Gut amiable or to anger it by tenderizing your enemies with an assortment of weapons.
Speaking of armaments, the edible mechanics of the game mean that even your equipment is munchable. If you tire of your axe or sword, eat it and it will give you health. It is nutritious meat after all! This bizarre ‘food’ mechanic is the core of what makes this game so insane and exceptional.
Golden Light’s visuals exhibit a garish surrealism, not unlike Cruelty Squad with its grotesque ‘Windows 95 Maze’ leanings. Both games have absurdist concepts that play out in the form of manic shooting frenzies but Golden Light tips the boat right over into a world of the disturbed and uncanny with its beefy theme.
So what does all this meat mean? Is it all a metaphor for the desensitization of mass killing at the behest of our bloodthirsty cravings? Maybe, but it feels more fulfilling to simply think of Golden Light as a twisted but highly entertaining attempt at subverting the norm. And a successful one at that.
Golden Light is stuffed with the sumptuous indulgence of filet mignon and all the gory charm of fresh roadkill. It is an entirely unique and visceral game that will chew you up, spit you out, slurp you back up again and still leave you hungry for more.
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