Monday, February 19, 2007

Indigo Prophecy - Review

Indigo Prophecy is in some sense a difficult game to review. It starts out seeming like an adventure game with action elements doing story scenes and ends up pretty exclusively as an interactive movie. It also starts out with an awesome and intriguing story and ends up completing falling all over itself in the end, losing its focus on the characters to try to make the plot world-encompassing.

The story "stars" Lucas Kane who regains consciousness in a restroom after having stabbed a man to death and carving strange symbols on his hands. He has no clue why he did this and has to cover his tracks and escape quickly before he is found out. I put "stars" in quotes there because right after this scene, you take control of police officers Carla Valenti and Tyler Mills who are investigating the murder that Lucas committed and attempting to find who might have done it. Seeing the story of the game from both sides works very well and really makes you feel for each character, even sometimes having to play against yourself. You want Lucas to succeed and find out what happened to him and what made him murder that man, but you also want the officers to solve the case and put the murderer away. The storytelling really works. It is just too bad that the story takes a rapid turn toward the end of the game from a well-told horror story into something bizarre that just tries too hard.

The gameplay consists of adventure sequences and action sequences, sometimes mixed in with each other. In the adventure sequences, you control one of the main characters. You can walk around and when you come upon an item you can do something with, icons appear at the top of the screen along with a diagram showing which direction to move the right analog stick in order to perform that action. For example, in the first part of the game you need to hide the evidence of your murder so that includes hiding the murder weapon and the body and cleaning up yourself and the floor. The adventure sequences are generally never too tough. Many times just wandering around until you find all the icons and apply them all (except ones that are obviously counterproductive) is enough. There are slightly more involved puzzles as well, but I'm generally not very good at traditional adventure games and I never had to consult an FAQ. Even if you don't solve every puzzle or find everything that generally doesn't stop your game, but may deplete your health (described below).

The action sequences are where the game plays like an interactive movie. Theses are pre-rendered sequences where you don't actually control your character, but instead must press buttons in a certain pattern. Sometimes, you may have to rapidly alternate between pressing the L1 and R1 buttons, much like the old Track and Field game. At other times, two circles appear on the screen superimposed on the action. These circles have their top, bottom, left and right quarters colored differently. As the sequence proceeds, the quarters will light up and you must quickly press the corresponding analog stick in that direction. It is all very similar to the toy Simon. Sometimes the action sequences are do or die - failing them ends the game and you must continue. At other times, failing them only decreases your health.

So there is health in the game, but it is actually conceived as mental health, not physical. The few physically threatening situations you are in are generally action sequences that result in your death if you fail. Your mental health, though, fluctuates throughout the game. At the highest level you are calm. You can fall to stressed, depressed, and devastated. Losing all mental health ends the game, either by going crazy in Lucas' case, or having to quite your job in the case of either of the police officers. Actions you take can have positive or negative mental health consequences. Getting yelled at by your boss or fighting with your girlfriend will lower your mental health. Sleeping, showering, eating, or having sex will generally raise it.

The game itself doesn't take very long to get through. No one part is incredibly hard and shouldn't take too long to complete. There are a couple "stealth" sequences and the first one anyway can be very annoying. Not only does it distract from the story, but it is also frustrating as it can be hard to tell exactly why you failed sometimes. Since the game is often a movie and a story, any additional gameplay would probably just feel like dragging it out. It is paced well. It is a shame that, while there are three endings to the game, only one is good and it is quite easy to choose between them right at the end of the game as opposed to earlier actions having lasting consequences.

The graphics are fair. I imagine they would look much better in the X-Box version of the game, but on the PS2 they look a little muddy and blocky. The characters animate pretty well, and usually there is no problem, but on occasion the lack of detail in the graphics actually detracted from the story. The voice acting is extremely well done and a pleasure to listen to. The music is another high point. It is appropriately moody and varied and spooky. The sound completely helps to put you into the story of the game.

Indigo Prophecy definitely has its flaws, perhaps the biggest being that if you bought it at full price, you wouldn't be getting a lot for your money. Ultimately, it is an interactive movie and movies can only last so long. Still, it is quite enjoyable while you are experiencing it. You really feel like you are moving the story along through the things you do and not just going through the motions. Indigo Prophecy is really more of a pleasant experience than a game. If you enjoy stories and ways of storytelling, it is quite fascinating for that.

Rating: 7 / 10

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