Full Disclosure: I personally know the developer of this game, but we were really drunk when we met so he may not (want to?) remember me. Also, I got this version of the game for free, but only because it was initially purchased on itch.io.
Okay, I’m going be honest, like brutally honest. Honest Abe. Honest Native American. The most honed among us. Honest. The very best honest.
Illumine is frickin’ weird yo.
Before y’all go and make your hasty ill-informed internet judgements, it’s weird good, not weird like that black-eyed shrimp-faced dude that lived beyond those boxes of actual Berenstein books and Alf pogs from the 90s during the day but fast right under your bed at night, not because it’s warmer or anything, but because the deep dark beneath a frightened child is most surely the most nourishing, and of course he knows you can’t do anything about it.
Shrimpy and I learned to kinda get along in the end. I mean, when you live above the tree line you make friends where you can. He’s still kickin it up there, I think. We don’t talk much since I came south. You all take the sun for granted.
I digress. The deep dark in Illumine is not nearly as threatening as it was in my youth, but it is omnipresent. It surrounds and suffocates. Its never-ending propagation continues through its own creation and destruction. Touch the dark, destroy the dark. Touch the dark, create the dark. It’s a toss up.
Your character is also a toss up. The world is populated with a diverse cast of characters, literal written characters. While everyone else in the world is generally latin, greek or cyrillic, your character tends to be further along in the unicode chart. Most characters you meet are friendly, but of course there are always a few bad apples in the mix, like the As, and the Яs. They’re both kinda assholes.
As your character, which is usually, but not always, the word “I” in one of several languages, you can perform three actions. You can knock against the darkness that surrounds you, you can talk to the nice letterfolk around while avoiding the angry ones, or you can collect books. Collecting (and reading) books makes you literate, and less likely to be an uneducated asshole. Oh yeah, it helps you progress in the game as well.
So, game-wise, that’s it. Oh yeah, then there’s everything else. What’s everything else? Hell if I know. The “Path of Light” in the menu tells you what to do. I’ll have to keep following that. But, I guess the most important question is, what does it all mean?
I’ve worked it out for you though. Basically, Illumine is a metaphor for success, which probably explains why I still find parts of it confusing. Initially, you’re a character out of place, trying to network with a bunch of strangers in another language. At first, nothing makes sense. Then you get run over by a Ø. Or eaten by an A. Or raged upon by a Я. Just like all of my first business projects. But then, you figure out the system, and you start to win, or at least get killed less. You use the dark to your advantage for a while. The dark becomes light, your enemies disappear or entangle themselves.
Now, if I could just make it 5 minutes without getting killed, that would make me feel better about my life choices. Gah.