The act of playing Gylt feels like the video game equivalent of reading the most embarrassing sections of a family member's diary out loud in public.
Gylt, especially as Google Stadia's only exclusive title available at launch, isn't really worth the price of admission. There was clearly a strong idea and lots of thought put into the game's development, but a combination of cliched missions and predictable plot points make much of Gylt feel unnecessary and, unfortunately, not very rewarding to play.
There's something intimately personal about Gylt, an underlying element to the title which feels not unlike perusing a family member's diary and then reading the most embarrassing entries out loud at a local poetry session. There is very little ambiguity in the game, from title itself to the starting moments which see the player's character, Sally, posting Missing Person flyers all around town for her cousin Emily. On her way home, Sally is accosted by bullies, chased down a less-traveled path, and ends up taking a cable car across mountain peaks and through a mysterious barrier in order to get home safely.
Upon her departure from the cable car on the other side, however, Sally notices the town she has entered is unlike the home she is used to. In a move very much like Silent Hill, Sally's town has turned into a twisted, nightmare version of itself, one filled with monsters and environmental hazards she must either sneak around or defeat in order to escape. However, Sally soon realizes Emily is stuck in this alternate reality as well, and she must attempt to rescue her in order to find the way home.
Encounters with the monsters inside the town can be either stealth or action oriented depending on the player's preference. Almost every environment is designed in such a manner as to allow Sally to dart from cover to cover with relative ease, and every location which requires the player to create a distraction in order to move forward is easily marked by the appearance of a vending machine which provides unlimited throwable soda cans. Combat, should it happen to occur, is simplistic in an Alan Wake or the recent Blair Witch game sort of way, seeing Sally either using a flashlight to make the monsters disappear or a fire extinguisher to temporarily stop them in their tracks.
These combat sections are interspersed with rudimentary puzzles, such as BioShock-like hacking mini-games and one-item-at-a-time inventory puzzles usually amounting to the player carrying something across a room and placing it in a nearby location. Occasionally problems will arise which require Sally to shine her flashlight at things like solar panels and gigantic eyeballs attached to amorphous blobs, and later on her extinguisher can be used to not only put out fires but also to freeze steam vents and puddles of water. Most enemies can be both stunned and destroyed with the flashlight, and the ones that can't still are thankfully able to be easily frozen.
To recap: Gylt sees Sally putting out fires while shining the light on both her and Emily's problems. Bullies chased Sally into this world, and bullies sent Emily there as well, and Sally feels guilty about it. The game takes place almost entirely inside the girls' school and the surrounding area, and thousands of messages which are persistently reiterating their bullies' thoughts are scrawled on walls and depicted in pictures on blackboards and even acted-out, constantly, by clothing store mannequins which appear throughout the world.
The player would think, then, Sally's titular guilt stems from the revelation she was one of Emily's bullies as well. Not to spoil anything, but this is not the case, and the game itself is all the weaker for it. By not clarifying just why exactly the nightmare is punishing Sally and Emily, making them dwell in their unhappiness and (again, not wishing to spoil the ending) giving them a conclusion which answers few, if none of the questions players may have, Gylt is robbed of any emotional impact it was trying to provoke.
The many aspects of gameplay which make up Gylt all feel ripped from different titles. The characters and main story are reminiscent of Life is Strange. The combat is Alan Wake without the gun alongside stealth sections which could fit into almost any game with ease. The numerous key hunting puzzles and occasional fuse box mini-games feel like they are lifted straight from BioShock. Take all of these elements out and nothing is left but a story about two cousins who were both bullied and subsequently tortured by both internal and external demons.
The story of Gylt ends with a choice, but really, it began with one. To play Gylt right now, players have to choose to purchase a Google Stadia. To play it on a television, they have to choose to purchase Chromecast. After both of these choices, they then have to choose to purchase the game itself. Those are a lot of decisions to end at an experience which, while appropriately atmospheric and nearly edging into the realm of interesting, is ultimately hampered by predictable plot points and unoriginal gameplay. The art design is neat, though.
Gylt is available on Google Stadia on November 19th, 2019. A Stadia code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.