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Explore a Gorgeous Lighthouse Haunted by Absence and Birds

'A Bright Light in the Middle of the ocean' is enigmatic and beautiful

Cameron Kunzelman

Cameron Kunzelman

One of the best things that a game can do is make you ask "What happened?" Many of the first-person exploration games from the past few years, like Dear Esther or Gone Home, have explicitly relied on that precise reaction in order to generate a curiosity in the player that keeps them moving. A Bright Light in the Middle of the Ocean is a game that generates this exact feeling. It's melodic, beautiful, and above all, haunting.

The game itself is very simple. It's a first-person experience in which you walk around a small island and look at the things there. You can find a telescope with which you can peer at a boat or a small town on the far-away shore. Some wonderful music plays over the whole thing, and as the game goes on, the sun begins to set.

The "what happened" feeling kicked in, for me, when I started looking at the drawings scattered around the lighthouse that I inevitably made my way up. Seagulls were screaming everywhere when I was down on the shore. Now, inside, there are drawings of them. Close-ups of these squawking birds are paired with figure studies that render them noble. An encyclopedia about birds rests on the floor and then, much later, I see constellations that appear to make up the bones of the birds, as if the person who marked those stars down on paper couldn't help but see seagulls wherever they looked. And I wondered at what had happened, and what all that meant.

All of that in less than five minutes of wandering around a lighthouse scene. A Bright Light in the Middle of the Ocean is a short, interesting bit of environmental storytelling sketched out over an island, and you should go download it for Windows, Mac, and Linux over at itch.io.