Gylt is a third-person stealth-based horror game developed by Tequila Works, developers of RiME. RiME was a special little journey back in 2017 that put this development team on many people’s maps, myself included. But to my surprise, Gylt flew under my radar for the longest time before playing it as a test run for Google Stadia. I initially enjoyed my experience and feared it being lost when Stadia shut down.
Fast forward to now, and the game is on all modern platforms. Giving this short, yet unique horror game, another chance to find a proper audience.
Into The Unknown
Gylt opens with the protagonist Sally, putting up missing posters in the hopes of finding her missing cousin, Emily. Emily has been missing for a while and Sally thinks something suspicious is going on while she searches for her. When she suffers an accident trying to escape bullies from school she finds herself on a path to finding a cable car and a mysterious old man that takes her to a dilapidated version of her hometown infested with monsters while she attempts to save Emily and herself.
The story of Gylt starts off very mysterious and intriguing but begins to devolve into a story more focused on its messages of bullying and childhood trauma. However, these messages are also very ambiguous to the point where I could only focus on Sally’s journey. Finding Emily in a mysterious ruined version of her hometown filled with monsters was easy to follow. But as time went on, I found myself more confused by the setting, and unfulfilled by Sally’s journey. Considering there is almost no time for Emily and Sally to talk about the events leading up to this point.
The environment does a good job of filling in the blanks. But when the upfront story tries to juggle both the interesting setting, and why Emily left in the first place. It becomes a muddled mess with only a few standouts in dialogue that I found gripping. Namely when Emily points out how Sally not helping her through the rough time she was having with kids at school made her as bad as the kids that tormented her. If there were more intense exchanges like this with easy-to-digest explanations of the setting, I would have left impressed. Instead, I had to turn to the combat, and puzzles in Gylt for my satisfaction.
Simple Stealth Combat In Gylt
The gameplay of Gylt is very easy outside of its very few bosses. You have a flashlight, tons of cover, and must either sneak around enemies. Or take them down with the flashlight. You have to focus the light beam from the flashlight on enemy weak spots to kill them. There are sadly only two types of enemies. A normal monster that can throw a ranged attack, and an enemy that can teleport and stun Sally. There are only these two enemies throughout the entire game and a third unkillable type. It is disappointing that the enemy variety is so shallow. Considering how varied the puzzles in the game are. But there was one shining moment in the game.
One of the boss fights in the game was against a spider-like person with a thirty-five-millimeter film projector protruding from its back. The design for this boss was actually pretty scary and how you took it down required precision stealth to overload projectors in a theater. The intensity of the fight, coupled with how it impacted the story was a major highlight in the game.
Each level has a ton of different types of puzzles you will have to solve. Either by having to kill eyeballs to open paths or move ladders and aim your flashlight at certain objects to direct light in other directions to activate various. There is so much to do with just the base mechanics of the game and it only opens up more over time. As you get a fire extinguisher that can open up paths that were blocked by fires. Or use it to freeze electrified puddles.
I had way more fun just exploring the map and even found myself solving puzzles that I needed to do before it was required in the story. The locales in Gylt are very expertly designed and detailed with a fantastic atmosphere to boot. No location ever feels too complicated or simplified as a result. Making any form of backtracking a treat instead of a chore. Another thing the game excels at is the map Sally has. It offers a very detailed layout of the areas you are in and highlights any resources or collectibles I skipped over, but since I was near them, the game marked it on the map.
While Gylt lacks in its enemy variety, the gameplay mechanics and how all of it comes together when you are exploring is genuinely fantastic and smooth. From shuffling through ducts, and slowly making my way across the appropriately placed covers in stealth sections. Even the combat felt very snappy and smooth. Similar to the game’s art style and technical performance.
Silky Smooth Visuals and Performance
I played Gylt on the Xbox Series X and it boasted very clear image quality and a smooth 60 frames per second. I never saw any performance issues and the game loads incredibly quickly. It was a smooth experience outside of one small hiccup. The game crashed during my second playthrough when looking at my map and trying to leave it. This only happened in one school room and never happened again. Outside of that, Gylt offers a nearly flawless experience.
Gylt also offers a non-intrusive HUD, so you will only notice your health bar if and when you take damage. Seeing where the battery of the flashlight is at to know if you have to find a refill is based purely on visuals. Similar to the fire extinguisher and the compass for a specific collectible. It is a fantastic touch that helps with immersion. The menu to navigate collectibles and how to tweak any of the very few settings is simple too. It complements the performance and gameplay perfectly.
Another thing that complements the immersion is the light usage of the game’s score. The score itself was nothing special, but it did help some of the game’s animatic cutscenes. These were only used when Sally was either interacting with Emily or the mysterious old man. Considering the game’s unique art style and smooth animation when playing it, I appreciated these cutscenes more than anything happening in real-time. Due to how silly the interactions would look otherwise in an emotional scenario.
Additionally, the game’s sound design from the steam coming from pipes, or even the sounds the monsters made really added to the immersion. Nothing felt out of place and it was just good as it needed to be, including the voice acting. Sally, Emily, and the old man are the only voiced characters. The voice actors did a fantastic job of making them feel believable. I just wish the story matched the same level of effort the voice actors gave into their roles.
Final Thoughts on Gylt
Gylt is a very interesting game. The setting, the gameplay, the exploration, and the puzzles are very impressive. But it falls very short when it comes to the story. It felt as though the game was trying to tell two different stories in one setting. But the game just was not able to execute it as I would have wanted considering the subject matter it does touch on. But when collectibles and environmental details do that job significantly better, I cannot help feeling let down. Outside of this though, Gylt is an easy recommendation at its price and short length of nearly seven hours to encourage multiple playthroughs for its multiple endings.
Gylt is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Steam, and PlayStation 4|5 for $19.99.