I’ll let you guys into a little secret – I wasn’t supposed to play GYLT. We have an awesome team of writers here, and one of my colleagues was initially supposed to review GYLT.
However, the review code that came through was for Xbox, and the editor knew that was my console of choice. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to take on the job, expecting to hate it. But to my surprise, I’m actually really glad it worked out this way!
To say that horror is not my usual genre would be an understatement. I refuse to watch horror movies, having been scarred by them after many questionable film nights with my older cousins when I was a kid. I’m 100% a coward, and I’ll freely admit that.
Despite the popularity of horror games in recent years, my own experience with them remained decidedly small. I played Slenderman in school when that was all the rage, but I hated every second of it.
A few years ago, I tried to play Alien: Isolation after being goaded by friends, but 5 minutes was all it took to have me quitting in terror.
Truth be told, I was very nervous about playing GYLT, but I needn’t have worried. This is a perfect introduction to the survival horror genre, and it’s ideal for people who want the general vibes of a horror game without exposing themselves to actual nightmare fuel. The cutesy vibes of GYLT set it apart, and make it perfect for cowards like me.
Overall, this game really impressed me. It had a compelling story, immersive gameplay, and clever soundscapes. It really leaned into the horror genre without going overboard. Let’s get into what makes it special!
A Powerful Message
Whilst I don’t have the patience for narrative adventures, I love when games have strong stories that they deliver through their gameplay. That’s exactly the case here with GYLT, and I love how nuanced it is. The story gives you hints as to what’s happening without spelling it out for you, and I love slowly piecing it all together.
You play as a young girl called Sally who’s searching for her missing cousin, Emily. The game starts with her putting up ‘missing’ posters even though it’s been weeks since Emily’s disappearance.
However, after being chased by bullies, she ends up in a mysterious predicament. The whole town looks as though it’s been struck by an earthquake, and it’s deserted except for monsters.
She also sees Emily, but for some reason, Emily keeps running away before Sally can speak to her. As you progress through the game, you’ll find lore notes scattered around. Together with the details of your surroundings, you slowly start to learn what’s really happening.
Unfortunately, the conclusion didn’t have the same gravitas as the majority of the game and felt a little hollow. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the overall message is still a powerful one.
It shows the struggles of young girls, and it showcases just how terrible the effects of bullying can be. I love when games have a strong premise that really makes you think.
Horror for Cowards
As I mentioned in the introduction, I am not a brave woman. Or maybe I am, as to quote Ned Stark, “The only time a man can be brave is when he’s afraid”, and I’m certainly afraid when it comes to horror. The mere fact I was willing to play GYLT shows how brave I am. But as it turned out, the game wasn’t nearly as scary as I was expecting.
GYLT is very much a horror game and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s not. It relies on tropes of the genre such as eerie music and jump scares.
You have to sneak around avoiding monsters and I often felt my heart beating in my chest as I was terrified of getting caught. But it was a fun kind of terrifying. I’ve never understood why people want to be scared, but now I almost get it.
The game would be a lot less scary if it weren’t for the soundscape. The background music is quiet and sinister, whereas the sound effects are much more prominent. It keeps you on high alert throughout, especially when you can hear nearby monsters but you can’t see them.
The graphics aren’t cute in the same way that something like Animal Crossing is cute, but they’re not as scary as a more typical horror game.
Instead, they fill a convenient middle ground where you still get the spooky vibe without having gruesome visuals to go with it. There’s also a fun hand-drawn sketch style for cutscenes which gives the game plenty of charm.
Full Marks for Delivery
I rarely commend a game specifically for the voice acting, but GYLT deserves the accolade. Every single dialogue and narrative line in this game is spoken by a voice actor, and it makes such a difference.
You can really immerse yourself in the story without needing to stop and read lines as they occur. They’re still written on the screen for you to follow along with, though.
Sometimes, voice actors don’t do the characters justice. I’ve played several games where it feels like they just pulled their developers aside to quickly read the lines. That’s not the case here. The characters each have completely different voices from one another, and they speak with such passion.
Special recognition deserves to go to Dora Dolphin, who plays Sally. She does an amazing job of capturing the essence of a scared yet determined young girl. You really feel her urgency when she’s searching for Emily; it’s inspiring.
She also manages to convey brave confidence when confronting monsters. The quality voice acting helps flesh out the character, and it’s beautifully done.
There’s so much emotion behind all the spoken words, and it feels almost like I’m watching a movie whilst playing the game. It’s as if the voice acting is a reward for my progress, as though I’m unlocking extra entertainment.
I also think the voices really fit the visual appearances of the characters; there’s such perfect harmony there.
Hey, who Turned Out the Lights?
Look, I get it; complaining about the darkness in a horror game would be like complaining that a platformer involved jumping. But this review is about my honest thoughts, and my honest thoughts are that this game was too dark.
Sure, it builds suspense, ups the ante, and all those buzzwords. I completely get why they did it, I just wish they didn’t.
However, I’m also completely aware that for most gamers, darkness is something they’re actively looking for. Personally, I think you’re crazy, but feel free to read this section as a compliment to GYLT rather than the criticism that I intend it as.
Many parts of the game are shrouded in almost total darkness, where you can’t even see the path ahead. To deal with this, you’re given a flashlight, but that’s not without its problems.
Firstly, the monsters are attracted to light, so you have to use the flashlight sparingly when you’re trying to be stealthy. Secondly, a tiny light in a big room filled with darkness isn’t as handy as I’d want it to be.
There’s another issue with the flashlight, and that’s that it sometimes catches on environmental assets and you can’t see a thing. I don’t think this was an intentional choice by the developers. Instead, it feels like it’s a flaw that would just be too time-consuming and convoluted to patch out.
Essentially, any time you come into close contact with an object, such as opening a door, your flashlight will become blocked. There will be no dispersal of light, just total darkness. This was frustrating at times but didn’t ruin the game.
What’s that Coming Over the Hill, Is It a Monster?
For any of my fellow millennials, you’re welcome for the earworm (and for any of you who don’t know the song Monster by The Automatic, seriously, YouTube it).
Anyway, the monsters! GYLT managed to find the perfect balance of scary and silly when coming up with the monster designs. They’re not so cartoony and ridiculous that you can’t take them seriously, but they also aren’t so scary that you’re going to have a panic attack whenever you see them.
If I had to sum them up in two words, I’d go with ‘gross shadows.’ The monsters have a shadowy quality to them, very dark and unnaturally slender. However, they’re also covered in bulbous orange pustules, which are pretty revolting.
These pustules are what make the monsters vulnerable, and when you shine your flashlight at them, you can burst them. When you burst all the pustules, the monsters shatter. Just make sure they don’t catch you whilst you’re trying to kill them!
The way monsters are implemented is pretty clever, as it gives you multiple options. You can use stealth to sneak past them undetected or to perform one-shot-kills from behind. Otherwise, you can go gung-ho, and use your trusty flashlight to get rid of those pesky horrors. You can even sometimes kill them by pushing them onto hazards.
If you’re spotted by a monster, it’s not game over. You can run away and try to find somewhere to hide. Top tip – monsters can’t duck under obstacles, so use your short height to your advantage. I learned quickly to be very aware of my surroundings so that I knew exactly where to go if I failed to successfully use stealth.
The boss battles are also interesting. There’s not much combat in this game, so instead, it’s primarily about timing and using your wits. You have to use the environment to your advantage to take down the bosses, which can require pretty quick thinking and reaction times.
I never would’ve expected to give a survival horror game such a high rating, but I can’t deny that GYLT is impeccably made. It might not do anything ground-breaking for veterans of the genre, but as a standalone game, it’s very impressive.
I can’t think of any actual flaws; my only negative experiences were down to personal preferences.
The pacing is excellent; I love how the story is drip-fed throughout the game. The gameplay is a decent mix of exploration, puzzles, and stealth. Aside from a couple of times when I got lost and had to check a guide, I never felt bored. There’s always something to do, and it’s fun working out how to do it.
I would recommend GYLT for any gamers who are looking for an introduction to the survival horror genre. However, it probably won’t offer much in the way of a novel experience to those who’ve played lots of other horror titles.
It’s more ‘spoopy’ than spooky, and the somewhat cutesy vibe helps take the edge off the scarier elements.
If you’re looking for something that hits a similar story vibe but is a bit less intense, why not check out our review of Iris and the Giant?
- Incredible voice acting
- Great pacing throughout
- A really handy map that shows location and orientation as well as locations of collectibles
- Fantastic introduction to horror survival games
- Fun puzzles that let you use your brain
- The music and sound effects create an immersive atmosphere
- Flashlight sometimes doesn’t work properly
- There’s an on-screen reminder every time you pick up an object, even if you’ve used it lots of times before
- The ending isn’t quite as effective as the rest of the game
Melika was a brave little soldier and played through GYLT for over 7 hours. She will not be returning to it to complete all the achievements, as her constitution just isn’t strong enough to go through all that fear again.
Question: Which Platforms is GYLT Available on?
Answer: Originally released as a Stadia exclusive in 2019, GYLT is now available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Question: Is GYLT Suitable for Children?
Answer: The game is rated PEGI 12, which I feel is perfectly suitable. There are horror elements, but those are mild, and there’s not really any gore or bad language. However, it might be too scary for young children.
Question: How Long does GYLT Take to Complete?
Answer: It’s listed as taking 6 hours on HowLongToBeat, or 9 hours for a completionist run. However, this will vary between gamers, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to other players.
Read More: Indie Game Reviews