A good parry in a video game is my weakness. My favorite DMC style is Royal Guard, I’ve watched that one famous Street Fighter clip 100 times, and I play every Fromsoft game with a kite shield. It’s an action that, when done right, just feels so good to perform. Strayed Lights is an artsy, Journey or Flower style game but with a combat system entirely focused on parrying. Naturally, I had to jump in and see how it feels.
You play as a being of light who, shortly after being born, is attacked and infected by a being of darkness that emerges from their reflection. You then go on a journey over the course of your childhood and adulthood to defeat your darkness and help others like you. The story is entirely up to interpretation, with no dialogue whatsoever. It’s still a novel way of telling a story in modern games, so I won’t spoil it, but it’s pretty much what you would expect. I didn’t find it particularly compelling, partially because the music does a poor job of accompanying cutscenes or gameplay. It feels like the soundtrack is going at a 100 when it really should be more subdued and atmospheric. Like you’ll have some epic drums playing after a fight has already wound down and your character is trying to make peace with their opponent.
Those battles are mostly one-on-one affairs, though the game will throw quite a few 2v1 fights in the mix later on. Unlike most games, your immediate objective in a fight isn’t to reduce your opponent’s HP to zero. Instead, you build up a meter near the bottom of the screen by parrying, then release that energy for a one hit KO. You can attack with a three hit combo, but you can’t cancel out of the final hit into a parry and attacks don’t build as much energy. Additionally, you can swap between orange and blue at any time, and only parrying an attack of the matching color will build energy. If you’re the opposing color, you’ll still block the damage, however.
Some attacks will be purple rather than blue or orange, and those you’ll need to dodge instead of parry. I do find that these types of attacks happen a bit too often for a game where the enemy sets the pace of combat rather than the player, and it often leads to me getting impatient and just tanking the hit to build meter with attacks. That could very well be the point, but sometimes an enemy will just be purple for several, lengthy attacks in a row which gets frustrating.
That’s essentially all you do for the three and a half hours the game takes to beat. While it is short, I appreciate the razor sharp focus on a single mechanic; it feels super polished and fully explored with different enemy attack patterns. There are also several collectables to find, and each enemy and boss you defeat will reward you with points to upgrade your character. Collectables will reveal more of the story or improve the amount of energy gained on a successful parry, while enemy skill points can purchase stat upgrades and boss points get you usable abilities. There are three abilities to learn with two more upgrade tiers. These let you block both colors for a set amount of time, stun an enemy, or perform a gap closer attack. I wasn’t able to fully upgrade my character by the end of the game, and I didn’t find the abilities other than blocking both colors to be very useful.
Instead, the game is all about improving your own skill at watching the enemy and parrying at the right time. It’s not terribly deep, I didn’t get all that much out of the story either, but it’s fun if you’re looking for a unique combat experience.
Strayed Lights is a short and sweet game exploring a unique, defensive combat experience. It can feel shallow and falls short in aspects like the music, but it remains engaging throughout its runtime.
- Interesting combat
- Gorgeous visuals
- Satisfying parry
- Music can feel inappropriate
- Too many purple attacks
- Character progression doesn’t mean much