Dark Light

A beautiful narrative about reincarnation, shape-shifting, and exploring the remains of lost world was enough to pull me and my Nintendo Switch into the picturesque world of Mooneye Studio’s indie game, Lost Ember. Alongside its lush vegetation, adorable critters, and dreamy skies, it’s a formula that’s almost bound to be a hit. Almost.

Reach the Light You Long For

According to the Yanren, those who follow their traditions are said to be greeted into the City of Light after death. The remaining are thrown back into the world as wild beasts, otherwise known as Lost Embers.

What follows this prologue is the entrance of the player’s companion, a floating ball of light that requires some assistance. Proclaiming that he’s been stuck for ages, we go forward as Wolf, helping our new spirit friend break through barriers and enter the City of Light. As we head down the path to the cave and discover an amulet with the name Kalani, Wolf’s past life, we find Kalani’s very being taking form before our very eyes, and grant us a gift to help on our journey.

With the ability to now transfer our soul between various life forms, or as our companion calls it, “soul wandering,” the duo of the Yanren spirit and the lost ember must uncover their memories about their former lives and enter the City of Light. 

While the vistas of Lost Ember seem to stretch far and wide, as you progress through the first barrier in the game and move ahead, you’ll find another barrier waiting for you up ahead. The key to breaking these is by uncovering memories from your past which builds the bigger picture about Wolf’s past incarnation, Kalani, and in time, your spirit companion. 


The narrative is neatly divided across seven chapters in the game, and while it seemed a bit slow in the beginning for me, things quickly ended up taking a dark turn. I had falsely assumed that the plot would be on the back-burner to make way for the exploration part of the game, but by the end, the story was the star of the show. 

Instead of taking the time to explore and find every collectible in the area, I found myself heading to the next memory as fast as I could to speed up the narrative. Despite the sub-par voice acting which puts a bit of a damper on the more emotional scenes, the story really made the journey a fulfilling one, right up to the very end. You might even find yourself shedding a tear as I did.

 A Wild Goose Chase

While Lost Ember isn’t an open-world game, the areas your search for memories can be pretty big. There isn’t any map to rely on to guide you on to the right path, rather just our spirit companion to summon for a few hints on how to proceed or some extra dialogue. This makes navigation pretty tricky and led to me having a lot of deja vu as I tried to figure out whether I was going in the right direction.

This is where the soul-wandering mechanic comes in handy, as certain areas require you to swim through sewage, flit across the sky, or even dig your way through the ground. Some creatures, such as the wombat, might even have a cute hidden mechanic such as munching on some grub.


Apart from this, there are collectibles to find which don’t really offer any in-game advantage. There’s a wide variety of mushrooms to scavenge for, which I mainly just used to help me determine whether I was going in circles or not, though I’m not sure that was their intended purpose. Relics are also scattered throughout the map and could even be buried in soil, but apart from offering a tidbit of information about the game, and a few easter eggs, they were purely cosmetic. There are even legendary animals that can be found in seemingly sealed away areas, glowing versions of the animals you can assume the form of.

The collectibles would appeal to completionists, and might even warrant a replay for those who didn’t find them all on their first run, but after a particular point, I didn’t go out of my way to find them as they mostly served as a hindrance in moving on with the main story.

Gorgeous with some caveats

Without a doubt, the environments in the game are gorgeous, however, as it is a port on the Nintendo Switch, it was bound to have some hiccups. I played the game on both handheld and docked mode, and noticed a couple of things. 

The first being the graphics themselves. I did look up some footage of how the game runs on other consoles and PC, and while the Switch port pales in comparison, it’s still pretty as a picture on docked. However, there are quite a few issues with the frame rate on handheld mode. In fact, on both handheld and docked, the game was even freezing at a particular frame for seconds on. 


Another bone I had to pick was with some of the character models. As you transition from Wolf to the other life forms around, the animals can seem a bit stiff. I couldn’t quite pin-point in the very beginning why this was so, but I later realized they were lacking much in the way of idle animations and eye movements, specifically blinking. This made it a rather jarring experience once I noticed and it made me feel like I was instead wandering through a world of plush toys. Oddly enough, some of the models weren’t even completely flat on the ground and even had a hilarious encounter with a duck suspended in mid-air.

While the game lacks in certain areas, musically it’s a stellar experience. When I was greeted with the words ‘using headphones is recommended,’ I knew I was in for a good time. The soundtrack is the right mix of peaceful and impactful at the right time, and beautifully accompanies the game’s storyline. 

Real Talk

Lost Ember tells a beautiful tale that at times, can outshine its gameplay. Sure, it’s not a perfect game, but it’s a promising debut for Mooneye Studios. Despite it being an ambitious port that falls short at times, it’s a brilliant example of the power of storytelling through video games as a medium.

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