Historically, issues of mental health have been too often subjected to misrepresentation in modern media, assuming the false correlation that mental illness is something to be feared. Videogames are as guilty of this as any other medium, and when The Town of Light [official site] first surfaced in 2014 via a crowdfunding campaign, it appeared to follow suit - after all it is set an asylum. Luckily, there's more to it than that, and its release today means you can now find out why.
Psychological thriller The Town of Light marks the debut project of Italian studio LKA that takes place in the real life, but now disused, Volterra Asylum. An impressive 7,000 square meters of the real building have been recreated for players to explore and events unfold through the eyes of the fictional 16 year old Renée, who has returned to the past in order to retrace her formative years living within the psychiatric institution.
In the late 1970s, a change in Italian law saw the closure of all asylums across the country in an effort to reinstate patients' civil rights, and while Volterra is now closed, Adam had the chance to visit the site last month. He praised how well LKA have tied the history of the setting to the tone The Town of Light hopes to convey:
"There are no chase sequences, there’s no clumsy combat and there isn’t a single supernatural entity in sight. There are bumps in the night though. And bumps in the day, for that matter. There is cruelty and abuse and imprisonment and fear. The Town of Light might not be a horror game but it is absolutely horrifying and the fact that it’s based in the history of a real place, and the wider social history of mental health treatment, makes its terrors and grotesques all the more affecting."
In the same piece, Adam notes that LKA insist The Town of Light is not a horror game - not in the conventional sense, at least - that it's simply exploring themes that are often wrongly portrayed elsewhere.
The Town of Light is out now on Steam for £12.45 with an 11% discount - a deal which for the next two weeks also includes the game's soundtrack, a digital art book, and a copy of Renée's digital diary. Here's the game's launch trailer: