Lost in space.

Title: Lightfield Hyper Edition
Platform: PC (reviewed) Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Lost in the Garden
Publisher: Lost in the Garden
Price: £12/$15 (across all platforms)
Release Date: July 31, 2018 (Steam), out now (PS4 and Xbox One)
TL;DR: Imagine Wipeout but with non-linear courses
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Lightfield Hyper Edition is one of those games that I just don’t know what to make of. At times, it was the perfect escape of the daily rigmarole; at others it felt like something that only served to frustrate. Offering up a fast-paced sci-fi racer that takes place across a handful of mid-air structures on different planets, the game is more of a collection of bits and pieces that we’ve seen before, delivering either a peach of a chill-out game or something that has you huffing and puffing as you try to make sense of what’s going on.

And whilst this is very much a game of two halves, there’s the constant joy of traversing through the retro sci-fi settings the game throws out. Spanning across twelve courses, the designs you come across wouldn’t look out of place in the stylings of No Man’s Sky. With huge stations that hang in the air, you’ll be racing across the surface, weaving in between pylons, delving through tunnels, and bouncing from one platform to another.

The races are of course the biggest part of the game, giving way to fast-paced tours around the slick structures of the game. You race against three other AI, though the game supports both four-player splitscreen or six-player online races. The majority of races tend to be time trials rather than first past the post endeavors – at least in the single-player races. And it’s a choice that suits the non-linear tracks well, with the course opening up a handful of different routes open for you to fly through or dash across the surface on.

Mixed up in the races is the chance to explore the structures. Leaving the race course doesn’t simply end with you being chucked back on to the tarmac and left to play catch up; instead, you’ll watch the other pods go on without you as you’re left to explore. Now, the structures aren’t massive, but there’s a handful of nooks and crannies that you can float through, giving way to obscenely colourful rooms of light. The majority of the exploration will have you just flying around, collecting stars or hidden treasures – both of which give you experience points that goes to unlocking new tracks on different plants or challenges. It’s an interesting feature and one that offers a totally different feel to the game, swapping out the fast-paced competition for a slow and surprisingly relaxing stroll.

As you’re either racing or exploring the different planets, you’ll do so with an underscore of… let’s see if I can get the sub-genre right – electronic drum ‘n’ bass(?) Basically, it’s a soundtrack full of heavy instrumentals that add an extra bit of energy to races or some chilled out electro-beats for exploration. Again, comparisons to the soundtracks of Wipeout or No Man’s Sky are the obvious signposts here. If you enjoy the likes of 65DaysofStatic then the varied soundtrack of Zanshin offer a similar treat.

The races – if I haven’t mentioned already – lie somewhere between chaos and structure. The early matches are fairly easy, seeing you go through a fairly conventional track, but there’s a fairly steep learning curve that turns races into parkour jaunts through space stations. And whilst the challenges that lead up to races have you practising techniques, using them during the races always feel a little ropey.

Pulling off drifts or successfully leaping from one platform to another make all the difference in the game, giving you much needed bursts of speed and just making you feel like a bit of a bad-ass. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed the feeling of watching my little space pod darting around almost expertly at times, I never felt like I was in control of what was happening, and even after having mastered certain moves outside the course, trying to pull them off during a race regularly saw me crash. That’s not to say that the controls of the game are bad, but there’s certainly a more technical feel to the controls than the game initially seems to have with its arcade feel.

And whilst the game does offer a fairly heft amount of game, with twelve courses made up of a handful of challenges, races, and exploration, the gameplay itself is fairly limited. Now, that’s something that goes for pretty much every racing game, but having each planet made up of two challenges where you learn new moves and then a race before you move on to another planet to do the same thing again, is something that means you’ll either want to avoid spending too much time with the game or – if you do decide to play for a decent chunk of time, you’ll surely get bored with the repetitive gameplay.

Lightfield is something of a conundrum; offering up things that I know I like but somehow manages to leave little impression. As a game to just sit back and chill out with, jumping in and out of races as you choose to before seeing what’s what across the station, it offers up a nice slice of easy gameplay. But as a game to sink your teeth into, it feels that Lightfield lacks enough variety to offer up anything new on the racing front and doesn’t have enough of a pull to make people want to explore the structures more than they have to.

The Good

  • Vibrant retro sci-fi setting is a perfect setting for the game
  • The different moves the game offers does allow for a lot of learning and adapting to tracks
  • The fact that it offers four-player split screen is bloody brilliant

The Bad

  • Flying your ship feels incredibly sluggish compared to racing on the ground
  • The lack of varied gameplay means you’ve done everything the game offers after the first couple of tracks
  • Exploration would feel more worthwhile if the environments were bigger

Family Focus

Lightfield is rate Pegi 3 in the UK and “E,” for Everybody in the US, it’s a nice choice if you’re looking to keep the kids busy while you, I dunno, discuss bills or talk about home insurance.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.