Archive for October, 2009
Okay, let’s get something straight. I am not okay with this! You hear me, Leapfrog? Just because you want to use games to educate horrendous little brats just like I do doesn’t mean you can use my *name* to do it.
Especially when your ad campaigns all make me sound easy and bad in bed. This is unfair! ”Many will enter, few will win”?!?! I’ll send it to your mom, Leapfrog! What do you think of that?
I’d better get some awesome credits out of this, or at the very least a biased jump-start in the edutainment field!
Lucidity is a game that came out of, from what I understand, was a company-wide LucasArts game jam, once again proving that game jams may very well be the best way ever to come up with awesome games.
Lucidity made me love LucasArts again. It’s a sweet, subtle game about grief, denial, fear and a whole other host of other emotions games won’t usually touch with a ten-foot pole. (I’m obviously talking about a different kind of fear here than “Oh-god-is-there-a-monster-around-that-corner-who-will-mutilate-who-first?!?” kind of fear.) This theme is handled in such an interesting way, and with such charm and sensitivity, that every once in a while I would have to pause the game just to scratch my head and wonder if this had really come from such a huge, IP-driven studio. It’s on both XBox Live and Steam for $10 and is well worth it, even beyond using your dollars to encourage LucasArts to stop beating Star Wars to death.
The protagonist is a little girl named Sofi, who, in the spirit of many older, awesome games, moves in a linear path. She will climb over ledges shorter than her, but other than that it is entirely up to you to place objects such as stairs, springs, fans, etc. in her path to direct it and keep her safe from monsters, plants, and simply falling to her death. The levels are also pretty straightforward: get Sofi from point A, the start of the level, to point B, a mailbox containing a postcard (beautifully watercolored, I might add) from her Nana.
This all makes it sound like a really straightforward, linear game, right? WRONG, suckers! Lucidity is one of the most cleverly designed, visually lush, replayable games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in, well… I dunno. Long enough that I don’t remember. The levels are huge, with as much (sometimes more) vertical space than horizontal. Fireflies, which you collect to bolster your resistance to monsters and other terrors as well as to unlock hidden levels. The basic levels are anything but linear, and in almost every case require to you play (well) at least two or three times to collect all the fireflies, but it works. The pieces you receive to help Sofi are randomly generated, and this, combined with the need to explored the full level for all the fireflies, ensures that neither your intended path nor the one you wind up actually taking will ever be the same as a previous play through. The controls are simply point-and-click to place (although a little sticky, which leads to unnecessary stress, flailing, and often death), but once you get the hang of the game you can set up incredibly awesome combos to guide Sofi over Giant Pits of Death and into Huge Swarms of Fireflies. The bonus levels serve, in many ways, as a break from the story levels, and explore designs that didn’t make it into the main story. The story levels are incredibly fun, don’t get me wrong, but the bonus levels are so varied and tricky that they’re really a treat to play.
Oh yes, I should probably mention: cute graphics and touching story aside, this is a damn hard game. It’s tough to master and insane to complete (I’ve only finished the story mode), and the entire thing is so well-designed that it stays challenging the entire way through without giving you a moment of downtime (even dying sends you straight back to the beginning of the level without pausing for more than a half-second wail from Sofi). While I think this works with the theme and is great for the gameplay, I do wish that maybe there had been a tiny bit more lenience. Something like the white bugs from World of Goo, to let you hop back a certain number of seconds or a single placed object, or something like that, would have spared me a lot of accidental deaths. Especially when the mouse decided to go AWOL, which more often than not was the reason Sofi would fall to some horrible death (the monsters were usually my fault).
The game in split into three acts, entitled Wonder, Fear, and Courage, each dealing with different stages of grief. The entire story is told through little diary excerpts from Sofi and the postcards from her Nana, which are presented at the beginning and end of each level. It serves to flesh out the story as well as Sofi’s journey and her relationship with her grandmother. The only other storytelling is done through four very brief cutscenes with no dialogue at all,one at the beginning and another at the end of each act.
In the initial act, Sofi simply wanders through dreamlands based off of her Nana’s farm, and you guide her around monsters, barbed wire and other such nasties. The levels are pretty introductory and give you a decent taste of how to move through the world, along with introducing all of the tools at your disposal.
The second act introduces a concept of overwhelming fear (surprise!), simply represented by a dark cloud that follows Sofi through a series of levels ranging from underwater, subterranean and frozen landscapes. Allow her to get enveloped in the cloud and she will die just like she would from any other monster, but it takes a while to swallow her up even once it’s caught up.
The third act replaces this cloud of fear with a school of skeletal while fish chasing after Sofi, this time more literally death (and an unpleasant one at that), and the hostile, monster-ridden environments from before with a small number of night sky backdrops.
The ending, without spoiling it for you, was enough to put me on the verge of tears, and I am a heartless, heartless bastard. The story is so tenderly done, with the exchanged between her and her Nana, that by the time you have guided Sofi through the entire ordeal, you can’t help but be genuinely invested in both her physical and emotional well-being and be proud of how much she’s grown up throughout the game.
Anyways, that’s all great, but I left out what is (at least for me) the best part of this game. THE ART. Oh my god, the art. I know I talked a bit about it already, but it’s storybook surrealism like I’ve never seen in a game. The whole thing takes place in lavishly illustrated surreal dreamscapes whose graphics are, I’m relatively sure, entirely planar. The texture work is amazing- everything has a watercolor, cutout paper, classic storybook feel. It brings me glee and inspires me to do so much with 3D art. I’ll just let you drool over screenshots, so I don’t sound like a *total* fangirl.
Tell me that isn’t the most gorgeous thing you’ve seen a good long while!
If you want to read another review of this, go check out Trevin’s blog. I know it’s a little hard to see him all the way down there on the scoreboard, but trust me, the review is good.