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GYLT Review

Top notch presentation saves this spooky experience from its otherwise shallow gameplay design.

7

Cade Davie

Jul 13, 2023

Remember Google Stadia? It hasn’t even been dead for a full six months at the time of writing, but it already feels like Google’s game streaming experiment is a distant memory. 


Credit where it’s due, Google certainly gave it the old college try. YouTube was flooded with ads for its parent company’s product, and an in-house video game studio was even created for the purpose of putting exclusives on Stadia. 


Additionally, Google made some deals with preexisting studios for some exclusive games that could have been lost forever when Stadia kicked the bucket.


Thankfully, several of these games survived the Stadia extinction event. One of which is Stadia’s first exclusive release: GYLT


Now available on other platforms, the latest from developer Tequila Works has a second chance at life, but has the work been worth all the effort? Thanks to the game’s wonderful presentation, I’d say that’s a yes — even if the gameplay is on the shallow side. 


Throughout the game’s opening, the music does a spectacular job of creating a palpably haunting atmosphere.

In GYLT, you play as a young girl named Sally. As you begin playing, no time is wasted in establishing that Sally has been looking for her cousin Emily who mysteriously vanished a month before the events of the game. 


After running from a few bullies while searching for Emily, Sally gets lost herself. In an attempt to get back home, she boards a spooky cable car thanks to the advice of an equally spooky stranger. 


Unfortunately for Sally, that cable car delivers her to a warped, destroyed, and eerie version of her school. Oh! It’s also crawling with monsters. Delightful. 


Fortunately(?), Sally catches a glimpse of someone who looks like Emily, so it’s up to you to see what’s going on and if Emily can be saved. 


Throughout the game’s opening, the music does a spectacular job of creating a palpably haunting atmosphere. It’s no wonder considering its composer is Cris Velasco whose works include Bloodborne, Carrion, and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. 


Perhaps even more impressive than the eerie string sections that I still hear in my nightmares are the moments where the score does some emotional heavy lifting at key moments in the narrative.



Of course, the music isn’t alone in setting the spooky stage. GYLT is certainly the most beautiful game in Tequila Works’ repertoire from a technical standpoint. 


Textures, animations, models, sound effects, and especially lighting are all polished to a mirror shine. An impressive amount of work was done to fill every corner with some detailed set dressings that only get better as the world around Sally becomes even more warped.



Things get way less scary when the game informs you that you can perform one-hit stealth takedowns on monsters.

So good is the game’s presentation, that the opening had me in absolute shambles. It’s worth noting, dear reader, that I’m a bigger scaredy-cat than Luigi in a Luigi’s Mansion title. 


The slightest creak of a door, flickering light, or wet, slapping monster footstep would send shivers down my spine as I paused the game and breathed into a paper bag. Avid horror fans might take one look at the art design of GYLT and instantly think I’m a total coward. 


Avid horror fans would be right. However, in addition to the game’s strong opening, I think most of my fear came from the complete lack of defensive options. 


The game consists largely of stealthing around monsters. Should one of the slimy creeps see you, your only option is to run. When you start out, that is.


Shortly after the game’s opening, you acquire a powerful flashlight that can eliminate monsters if you shine the beam on their glowing, orange pustules. This made things significantly less scary. 


Things get way less scary when the game informs you that you can perform one-hit stealth takedowns on monsters. How spooky can they be if I can take them out so easily? 


Sure, the flashlight has a limited battery that you must resource manage, but there are so many batteries littered about the game’s world that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in an Energizer commercial. 


Of course, sometimes the overload of batteries makes sense as you’ll have to use the flashlight to solve a few puzzles as well. It would be a major bummer if you ran out of juice and couldn’t progress. 


Yet, I don’t think many would have trouble with the puzzles for two reasons: they’re already very simple, and Sally talks too much. It’s forgivable when she delivered context for the story, but too often when I happened upon a puzzle she would hint at the solution almost immediately. 


I’m confused, Sally. I thought that I was playing this video game and you were merely in it. You can now join the God of War: Ragnarok cast at the Puzzle Killing Characters Club.



She doesn’t do it all the time, of course, but one time is too many. It would be more welcome if she waited a few minutes or if the puzzles were simply more challenging. 


However, aiming beams of light at certain panels and moving crate-like objects along the floor aren’t really anything new. This isn’t to say that the puzzles are poorly done or unsatisfying to complete, but those that have played plenty of games before won’t find anything exceptional about the puzzles in GYLT


This goes for the mechanics present in the boss fights as well. In fact, the player encounters with the flame monster are the easiest part of the game by far.


Being able to stop baddies in their tracks as much as you want is simply way too powerful. 

Like the puzzles, what the game calls combat is fairly shallow. The aforementioned issues with the flashlight are one thing, but you’ll eventually get the ability to stun enemies, and, later, the ability to completely freeze them for an even longer period of time. 


That second, more powerful freezing ability completely eradicates any sense of scary that the game had. Being able to stop baddies in their tracks as much as you want is simply way too powerful. 


Add the fact that health pickups are just as plentiful as batteries, and staying alive becomes way too easy. It’s a shame because without feeling a bit of nervous tension, GYLT is little more than a pretty game to play through.



I say that, because the story isn’t spectacular either. It’s interesting enough to see through to the end, sure, but it’s just not fleshed out. 


Too much of what’s going on is delivered solely through Sally’s inner monologues and collectible text dumps, and there are these odd 2D cutscenes that occasionally happen. I’m not against 2D cutscenes when they’re done well, but the ones in GYLT feel jarringly minimal compared to the rest of the game’s detailed work. 


The world you explore in GYLT is colorful, but its 2D cutscenes are strangely lackluster. They almost feel like they were placeholders or storyboards that had to be left in because of budget constraints. 


All of that sounds pretty bad, but there’s plenty to enjoy in GYLT. Its action is nicely paced, the level design is competently done with a nice and clear HUD, there’s a nice handful of collectibles for the truly dedicated, and the lack of challenge could actually make it a strong title for those that aren’t as comfortable with more intense horror games. 


I want to say Baby’s First Silent Hill, but Silent Hill for babies is a terrifying thought, isn’t it? Ultimately, despite its weaker gameplay elements, GYLT is a nice addition to the Tequila Works portfolio thanks to its strong visuals and a wonderful soundtrack.



 

Pros:

  • Lovely art style

  • Tremendous soundtrack

  • Super detailed and imaginative world


Cons:


  • Combat is shallow

  • Story is bare bones

  • Puzzles are too simple

  • Loses its scary atmosphere too quickly



Score: 7/10


Reviewer played on Xbox Series X


GYLT is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, and PC



 


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Cade Davie

For more than six years, Cade has closely followed the ins and outs of the video game industry while writing features, opinion pieces, reviews, interviews, analyses, and news updates. If he isn't writing about video games, Cade is playing every possible title he can get his hands on in order to deepen his understanding of the medium and its trends.

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Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

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Small Running Title

Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

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