I’ll admit I was very intrigued by the tagline for developer Lost in the Garden’s new racing game Lightfield: “sci-fi racing with a parkour twist.” That sure sounded pretty cool on paper, especially since I’m a big fan of both sci-fi and parkour (racing is ok, but far from my favorite gaming genre).
However, despite an upbeat soundtrack from Electronic composer Zanshin, a series of expansive and gorgeous levels, and a relatively easy-to-learn control scheme, the entire Lightfield experience just doesn’t have a lot of meat on its bones, especially if you’re planning on playing it by yourself.
Racing Your Way
Much like in Nintendo’s classic F-Zero series, Lightfield allows players to zip around in hovering space racers which can both soar through the air and also skim around on any nearby surfaces with equal ease. This is where the game’s “parkour” elements come in as you speed through each level, launching into the air and “sticking” to available surfaces (flat ground, pillars, large blocks, pretty much any solid object you come across) in order to gain a small speed boost and also find unconventional paths through each level.
To a degree, the game seems to encourage players to find their own creative routes (there are a small number of hidden treasures tucked away in far-off corners), but it also stymies that encouragement with other gameplay design choices, such as the fact that no effort is made to guide the player back onto an optimal route if they stray too far into a given level’s fringes (though it will tell you if you’re going the wrong way).
The controls are pretty easy to learn since all you have to worry about is holding down the accelerate button and occasionally pressing the parkour button while also steering, but having to constantly hold down one of my controller’s trigger buttons (I played on Xbox One) eventually led to hand fatigue, so keep that in mind if you plan on playing Lightfield for extended periods of time.
The Wild Blue Yonder
Along with the practice-based free-roam mode, there are two main ways to play Lightfield: structured races and endless time trials. As you play both modes, you earn experience points which eventually allow you to unlock new levels, but once you accrue enough XP to unlock every one of the game’s small number of tracks, there are scant other rewards to chase aside from medals earned from different race difficulties and a series of more universal in-game achievements.
You can naturally work your way up each level’s leaderboards via online multiplayer or challenge your friends to a few friendly local multiplayer races, but once that competitive novelty wears off, there’s little long-term appeal to be found in Lightfield. It’s a shame, really, since Lightfield has some of the most breathtaking and expansive race tracks of any racing game I’ve ever played (a fortunate side-effect of its sci-fi setting), it’s just that there’s so little incentive to explore them aside from the paltry amount of awards and unlockables the game has.
Sure, it can be fun to speed through a given level a few times and find a cool route or two, but even with its vibrant graphics and eye-catching racetracks, Lightfield doesn’t have any longterm viability worth mentioning. If you’re desperate for a sleek new racing game to play with your friends (or online strangers), I suppose there are worse options out there than Lightfield, but the game’s parkour-inspired racing and expansive racetracks merely mask the fact that, over the long term, there’s just not a whole lot to inspire players to keep coming back.
- Easy-to-learn controls
- Gorgeous levels
- Upbeat soundtrack
- Not much content to enjoy
- Console controls can lead to hand cramps
- Few long-term incentives