On principle, I hate Light the Night and the penalty to originality that all knock-offs represent. On a different principle, I find a good deal of value in revisiting popular games with sometimes minor improvements; that seems like the most obvious way to make the best possible games available to players. In practice, I really like this game, and the small changes they’ve made from the original they’ve knocked off matter to me enough that I’m pleased it was made.
Broken Bulb Games’ Light the Night is very, very similar to Jetpack Joyride (henceforth JJ). You play a lightning bug trying to collect the in-game currency (lumens) as he flies as far as he can at ever greater speed through increasingly treacherous wetlands. Obstacles include flowers and various bugs, while dandelions provide power-ups and streaks of lumens collected give an awfully familiar-looking temporary speed boost with invulnerability. Because it’s a wetland, the lower edge is water and will instantly end your flight. This is interesting, but the more forgiving setup of JJ is both more fun for me and much less frustrating for very young players, for whom the app seems otherwise extremely well-suited. I also miss the character of the power-ups from JJ, which seem to have more of an identity than the bare effects of Light the Night’s dandelions.
A much better change from JJ is the control scheme: once you touch the screen, the bug moves up or down according to your finger’s motion. It feels perfect; distinctly less awkward than JJ’s control scheme. This makes a much bigger difference to me than any of the other changes, which surprised me because I never found JJ’s controls inadequate or uncomfortable. Light the Night just feels better, like the interface isn’t something you’re always trying to manage but just executes your wishes.
The art is cute and simple–it does the job of making the game fun and interesting to look at almost too well; I had to do most of my play for the review after my two- and four-year-olds went to sleep. The music and sound are similarly effective, if uninspiring. It does seem as though lumens accumulate relatively slowly, and some of the upgrades are moderately desirable, so there’s some wallet threat for those with poor impulse control. It’s not completely egregious, though, and I find such mildly manipulative tactics much more acceptable from a game which is actually free, as this is, than from something I already paid for (even if I recognize that the price I paid was probably too low to incentivize further development of similar games).
I prefer the control scheme and very kid-friendly theme of Light the Night enough that I’m basically happy it exists. There’s certainly some conflict about the derivative nature of the game, but it distinguishes itself just enough for me to like it distinctly better than Jetpack Joyride. While I’ve never been convinced that game deserved its fame, a slightly superior version with no barrier to entry makes a highly appealing option.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.