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Gylt is an Alan-Wake-for-kids adventure that trains you in the ways of survival horror

Hurt people hurt people

Sally looks out of the window of a strange cable car in Gylt
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Tequila Works

Until recently, Gylt (look, stay with it) was confined to Google's cloud gaming platform Stadia, but Stadia doesn't exist any more, so this third-person stealth adventure is being unleashed on Steam. You play as Sally, a young girl whose even younger cousin Emily has gone missing. One autumnal evening, Sally gets lost and tries to take the old mining cable car back home - only to discover herself in a weird mirror version of her home town, derelict and abandoned save for shadowy monsters, the likes of which you'd find as models in Forbidden Planet in a cabinet labelled "From The Mind Of Tim Burton". Sally has few defences save creeping around and shining a powerful torch at the monsters, who don't like strong li- hey, now my title makes sense!

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The monsters come in a few variants that include 'invisible', 'cow', and 'terrifying mannequins' of oneself. They are not unlike the ones you find in Alan Wake. The reason why this is Alan-Wake-for-kids, though, is because these monsters have the smarts of a bag of spanners, to put it bluntly, and batteries for your torch (which only drain when you focus it for attacks) and inhalers to refill your health are stashed by an extremely generous hand around the school and adjacent buildings you explore.

You can sneak behind some enemies to do instant stealth takedowns, engage in boss fights that are largely just timed stealth segments, and you get a recharging stun attack and a fire extinguisher to open up traversal options around environmental hazards. There are also optional collectibles to find that include baby's first text logs, but none of them are very far off the beaten track at all.

This could mean that for experienced survival horror veterans, or even games in general, Gylt could be disappointingly easy. But I also don't think it's really aimed at survival horror veterans, or even adults at all. This is a game that feels squarely directed at children - not six-year-olds, of course, but kids in that sort of grey, pre-teen area. It might be linear and obvious to me, a hardened player with a thousand yard stare from all the hours playing Fromsoft games and reviewing Resi 7, but this is a technically non-violent game where you zap shadow monsters with a torch in order to save your cousin from nightmare versions of school bullies! And it's pretty great at that, you know?

Sally looking at a tableau of mannequins acting out a scene of school bullying in a corridor
Sally examining a strange eye stalk goo monster blocking the corner of a classroom in Gylt
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Tequila Works

It being aimed more at kids also doesn't mean that you, an adult, wouldn't enjoy it anyway. Like Tequila Works' previous game Rime, the literal explanation for what's happening in Gylt (and the identity of the old man helping Sally out as she tries to save Emily) is only ever hinted at. It's never made explicit, showing a lightness of touch that's lacking in most games aimed explicitly at grown adults who have conspiracy theory boards about Twin Peaks. Gylt is also polished and plays well, as you'd expect, and as an avowed disliker of mannequins I was consistently spooked despite being old enough to buy my own hard lemonade.

It's like a next-step training programme. If you want your child to learn that you can move or climb yellow things in games, that enemies often have glowing vulnerable spots, that you can go back to previously locked off areas to find things, that you should grid search games to find the three MacGuffins you need, that it's often economical to run past enemies to get to the next area, and that being a bystander to bullying if you're not participating yourself is still really bad, then gosh, Gylt will do all of that in one. There's also an outside chance it will teach your child to attack bullies with fire extinguishers, but I trust you'll be able to get ahead of that.

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