The Light: Shelby's Addendum

by Colm McCarthy profile

Part of Quest Adventure
Science Fiction

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Saving the world with a single lightbulb.*, January 31, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF

The intro of The Light; Shelby's Addendum pulled me into the game immediately.
In a rather long passage the protagonist, a certain Shelby is hurrying to get to the scientists in the lighthouse when he is engulfed by an almost tangibly dense fog. Forced to take shelter, he falls asleep in a shed and awakens in the middle of the night. Although frightened, he takes his chances with the dark and the mist, only to find the lighthouse complex abandoned. Or so it seems...

Something went very wrong with the experiment. Up to you to find out what and how to fix it.

There are more long non-interactive passages of text like the intro in the game, like cutscenes and a fighting scene between two NPCs. They are well written and do not slow down the pace of the game. The opposite actually, in my experience. They felt more like rewards after a sequence of tasks done correctly, showing you the fruits of your labour quite eloquently.
The room descriptions are also lengthy and detailed, helping to sustain the dim and gloomy mood in the fog-surrounded lighthouse.

The map is seemingly wide open from the start of the game, with just enough locked doors and hints to other areas to keep it interesting. You can explore every nook and cranny to your hearts content at first. However, as you solve puzzles, you trigger some events that speed up the story significantly and take you to other locations completely, where the pressure to act becomes much higher. (I don't think there is an actual timer, but it sure feels like it. Good writing!)

The obstacles are never too hard. Most are lock and key-puzzles, opening up new and/or hidden rooms in the complex. Some are mechanical puzzles, figuring out what button does what and getting a machine to work. It's one of these that pushes up the tempo towards the fast and action-packed endgame.

The story is great if you are willing to let yourself be swept along. In hindsight, there are some gaping holes and improbable situations (No failsafes in a project of this magnitude? Really?). Turn your willing suspension of disbelief up a notch and you'll be fine.

The NPCs were a tad too distant to my liking. I would have liked to see a deeper exploration of the scientist-gone-mad bad guy. As it was, he was a bit of a caricature.

The Light; Shelby's Addendum shines through its fast-moving plot and its consistently gloomy atmosphere. Great game!

* The title of my review is a tip of the hat to the excellent walkthrough by David Welbourn. Use it sparingly, the game is not that difficult, but go over the whole thing after you've finished the game. The work of a true craftsman.

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colmmccarthy, November 14, 2021 - Reply
Per me in 2015...

Shelby's Addendum was supposed to be part one in a "The Light" trilogy. It was all about time distortion, so the events in part one actually took place after those in part two (hence the "addendum"). There were lots of deliberate gaps in the storyline. That seemed to confuse a lot of people...but that's what I get for never completing the trilogy.

Part Two was called "The Light: The End of All Things", and began a year or two after the end event of "Shelby's Addendum", before making a beeline into events that took place ten years previously. It focused on how the two scientists (Holcroft and Barclay) discovered a space/time distortion and Barclay, losing his mind after the death of his wife and trying to use the distortion to reconnect with her, triggered the events that led up to the beginning of "Shelby's Addendum". You played three characters in that - Shelby again, Barclay, and some government investigator. I had the game mapped out on paper, and had begun to rough out the code (it would essentially reuse the same map from "Shelby's Addendum" - but I got totally sidetracked by life.

I started working on a pirate game ("The Singular, and Historically Inaccurate, Misadventures of Nobeard: Would-be Scourge of the Caribbean" - there's a TADS demo somewhere), then we moved to Ireland and I lost all of the paperwork somewhere along the way.

I can't remember what the third one was about. It was going to be called "The Holcroft Covenant" (which turns out was a spy movie in the 1980s). I know Shelby was unstuck in time, and the game would just bounce you all over the place. There were aliens, and Edwardian shipping passengers that were somehow still living in a wreck under the sea due to benign aliens. And a dystopian government collapse. But alas...

Incidentally, the lighthouse is mapped after Fanad Head Lighthouse in Donegal, Ireland, where my father was the keeper. You can use the game map as an actual map of that lighthouse and grounds (within reason, obviously).

So there you have it, sort of. "Shelby's Addendum" was deliberately obtuse and filled with unanswered questions, only to find itself abandoned and forever obtuse due to an author whose time and talents didn't match his ambitions for his story arc. It's a shame. It probably would have been fun.

Thanks for playing. Glad you enjoyed it. Cheers. Colm.
Rovarsson, November 14, 2021 - Reply

Sorry it took me so long to notice your comment.

Too bad the full trilogy never made it into the light. Another one lost after the pilot episode. Still, Light, Shelby's Addendum worked very well on its own. I consider it a highlight from that early modern IF-era I love so much.

If I ever find myself near Donegal, Ireland, I'll have to visit the lighthouse and set up a re-enactment of the game.
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