Dealspwn Rating: 4/10
Play It! : Xbox Live Marketplace (800MP)
I remember a time when LucasArts used to represent fun. X-Wing, The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, these games were all near-perfectly designed in their construction, critical classics of the Nineties and, most importantly, an absolute blast to play. The millennium ruined that. Personally I blame The Phantom Menace, after which LucasArts simply stopped innovating and decided to pump out a bunch of shameless Star Wars cash-ins that never touched the dizzy heights of their decade old big brothers. They're not stupid either: after finally realising that all their best staff had jumped ship (bye-bye Sam & Max, au revoir Tim Schafer), LucasArts simply went back and made a load of their old games shinier for re-release on XBLA and Steam.
Which brings us to Lucidity: the first true original from LucasArts available through the Xbox Marketplace. Braid has a lot to answer for here; since the watercolour soaked puzzle adventurer wormed its way onto Microsoft's gaming marketplace and snaffled a bundle of awards in the process (msnbc), nearly every developer worth their salt has been experimenting with the 'Games-as-Art' formula. Now, it would seem, it's LucasArts' turn.
Original is definitely the word to describe this game: no remakes here, thank you very much. Ostensibly, Lucidity's premise is to shepherd Sofi - a little girl who dislikes standing still - through a nightmarish, cartoon manifestation of her grief at her Nana's demise. Sofi, being a little short in the brain department, walks mindlessly across the screen, never stopping and never watching out for chasms or forest monsters. The camera is fixed on her and there's nothing you can about it except help her on her merry way by putting obstacles in Sofi's path to help her deal with the dangers to which she remains so obstinately oblivious. So far, so simple. But the items/powers/abilities - whatever you want to call them - you use to help young Sofi manifest themselves in a random order much like the blocks in Tetris, the idea being that with careful time you can use the right item at the right time to help Sofi out. Of course, what actually happens is the game devolves into a chaotic mess as you swear violently at the screen for not giving you the spring-shoes at the right time, or offering bombs when what you really need is a mini trampoline. This is fine in the early stages of the game, but later on Sofi starts being chased by A Big Black Cloud of Misery and Doom, that basically kills her if you fail to help her out in time.
If this all sounds like I'm being a little too negative at the moment, well.....it's because I am. You see Lucidity promises quite a bit with its gorgeous visuals, atmospheric ambience and notable premise. It is a wonder to behold, and easily one of the best looking Arcade games available. The story is presented in an endearing fashion, with little postcards from Nana at the end of each stage, and little diary updates from Sofi letting us know where she's at. The fireflies that Sofi can pinch for a health boost also offer a certain dimension of replay value in that if you collect enough of them, you'll unlock bonus levels for your further enjoyment, and there's a sense of whimsy about the entire affair that serves to suck you in.
Unfortunately the stinking gameplay tries to push you away just as hard, if not more so. Especially when The Cloud of Arbitrary Time Limits turns up, there'll be plenty of moments when you'll feel like hurling your controller at the screen. There's no loading screen after you fail - and you probably will fail, at least once - which should be a good thing, but only serves to imply that LucasArts figured you'd be restarting the level quite a lot and didn't want to add to your already ballooning rage. It might be different were you actually controlling Sofi and therefore had a smattering of a connection to what she was doing, but you play The Cursor. It might be better on the PC where the mouse is King, but even so, looking after Little Red Riding Hood's directionally challenged little sister is still not my idea of a good time.
I want to like it, I really do, but I can't. Ultimately, extravagant beauty hides a beast within. It's like going on a date to find that the person you're meeting is drop-dead gorgeous, and they're lovely and full of really interesting ideas and the conversation's great for a bit; but they steal your chips and nick your wine and just keep moaning on and on and on about death and exes whilst farting incessantly. You want to stay and stick it out because you think they're very promising indeed and it might be worth it at the end, but in the end the cycle of morbid misery and foul vapours forces you to run.
- Lovely artwork
- Great ideas
- Tries hard to be endearing
- Horribly aggravating gameplay
- No fun to play
- Not recommended for anyone with high blood pressure
The Short Version: Bucketfuls of whimsy and cute visuals can't save Lucidity from its unique, but horrifically aggravating gameplay. An interesting experiment, but definitely try before you buy.