Reviews: Finally, a game that portrays the real life struggles and hardships of being a cop playing basketball in the middle of winter.
I've found that there are two kinds of games- those that do something new and those that do something old in a new way. Indigo Prophecy is one of the latter games, mixing in Shenmue's level of detail with Max Payne's dreary mood and blending it into one epic ?choose your own adventure? game, all with a level of panache that could be easily qualified as successful.
Indigo Prophecy is a complex narrative. On one hand, Indigo follows the exploits of one Lucas Kane as he attempts to cope with a murder he unknowingly committed, while on the other it follows the attempts of the ever determined detective Carla Vincent and her somewhat absent-minded, jive talkin' sidekick Tyler Miles as they attempt to track Lucas down. The fact that the player controls both the cat and the mouse in this game really gives it an interesting edge. It's what makes this game stand out among the lesser known adventure titles.
The developers did a good job making the player feel in control over the three scenarios. The game flows in chapters. Each chapter focuses on one of the three main characters, and as soon as one character's part is done, the user is allowed to choose one of the others to play. Once all parts are finished, the chapter ends, and the next one begins.
The narrative of the game does a good job of drawing the user in by showing us three very interesting characters. By the second chapter, I had already decided I wanted Lucas to stay alive and find out just why he committed the murder, and yet at the same time I wanted Carla to find Lucas so she could finally get some respite from the stressful case. As for Tyler, well, he seemed to be rather preoccupied with playing basketball and having ?fun? with his girlfriend, but even still, I wanted to see him have a happy ending with her. However, the plot does very get shaky near the end. The first 2/3 of the game are fairly interesting, but if by the time it ends you're not totally pissed off by the lack of coherent imagination that went into the endgame, then perhaps you might enjoy a marathon viewing of ?From Justin to Kelly?. To say the plot goes off the deep end is an understatement, and the sad part is that much of the trouble I had with this game could have been cleared up with a few lines of explanation dialogue. It's very sad that the story- and I can't emphasize enough that the writing is the most important draw to an adventure game- wanders into the land of narrative suicide in the third act. Perhaps if the developers had more time to work on this game, the plot would have been much better. If it hadn't been for the sudden lack of plot detail, I would have enjoyed the game much more. This is definitely the biggest problem I had with the game.
Indigo Prophecy features four different types of game play. The first of these is the average explorative mode. In this mode, characters are allowed to freely walk around a given area and examine objects through a system that is known as the Motion Physical Action Reaction (MPAR) system. Basically, the MPAR system makes the player trace some pattern on the right analogue stick in order to perform an action in the game. For instance, to make Lucas to open a door, the player would position him in front of the door, then, while following a pattern given on-screen, press the thumbstick in a clockwise motion from top to bottom. I can't say this really helped set the feeling for me, but at least it kept things interesting, and never really got in the way of getting through the game. There are a few times when it gets tedious trying to perform long strings of MPAR patterns, especially when they come out of nowhere, but for the most part it works. One thing that does cause problems in the exploration mode is the camera. The game tends to be portrayed through very artistic camera angles that, while they look very nice, are no help at all when it comes to moving around. This never seems to happen when the being timed so it doesn't ruin the game, but it does get on the nerves.
The second type of game play element is the dialogue system. As anti-climactic as it sounds, the dialogue system in Indigo Prophecy is actually fairly interesting. When in a conversation, the player is given a short period of time to make one of up to four decisions for the next question/answer the character will give. Usually, the player can only get in two responses before the conversation ends. More often than not any other possible dialogue choices will have very little consequence to the outcome of the story, but it does add some replay to the game. The fact that the dialogue is driven by the player, helps keep it interesting to listen to.
The third game play element is the action system. Playing much like Shenmue's Quick Time Event (QTE)? system, when the characters get into trouble, or decide to do something active, two circles will appear on screen. These circles represent the left and right analogue sticks. As the action on screen proceeds, one of the sides of a circle will light up. When it does, the user will need to press the corresponding direction on the same analogue stick. It works much like playing two games of Simon at the same time. On the easy and normal modes, the action scenes are fairly easy to keep up with, but on hard they tend to become a bit over-complicated. It wouldn't be called hard if it was easy, now would it?
The fourth and final type of game play element is the sneaking system. Sneaking works much like the MPAR system, but as in Metal Gear Solid, if your character is spotted, it's lights out. These tend to be needlessly complicated, as often times the enemies will spot the character from miles away. Luckily these sneaking scenes are few and far between.
Tying the game together is an emotional tension gauge. This gauge will fluctuate throughout the game depending on what actions are taken at what time. For instance, while playing Lucas, if the player was to accidentally leave a big pool of blood behind at the scene of the crime, the gauge would lower and Lucas will feel worse, whereas if the player was to mop up the stain, the gauge would rise, and Lucas will feel better. If the gauge falls to zero, then the Lucas will become too depressed and the game will automatically end. More often than not the gauge won't be enough of a problem to give the player a game over, but it becomes a pain when trying to see some of the different scenarios in the game. If you try to keep the detectives from finding Lucas, for instance, they will quickly become depressed and a game over will occur.
On a visual level, Indigo Prophecy struggles to impress. It's not that Indigo looks bad, it's just that in this day and age, the graphical limits of the system have been pushed so far; Indigo is left behind in the proverbial dust. Character models are fairly good, but are somewhat jaggy. The textures in the game are just plain vanilla. The blandness works to some extent, seeing as the game is supposed to be bleak, but they could have used a little more pizzazz. Also, the motion capturing is somewhat bothersome. There is one scene in which Carla is talking to an older detective, and I swear, just by looking at his body language you'd think she was talking to some sort of prostitute on the street. Many of the motions in the game are just over acted. While the graphics are mediocre, it is important to mention that Indigo Prophecy really isn't a game about graphics anyway, but it would have been nice to have better graphics to help set the tone for the story.
The music fits well with the feeling of the game. Many low, soulful sounding stringed instruments moan their sad tunes, perfectly emoting the pain and restlessness of the characters in the game. The licensed music feels a little too forced, though. I mean, Theory of a Dead man is alright, but why is it that that's all Lucas has to listen to? There are a few old soul/funk songs that populate the background noise at different parts in the game, adding a little variety and setting the proper tone, but more variety in the soundtrack would have been nice, and I would have loved to hear more original pieces. I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of voice acting in the game. The acting actually managed to draw my attention away from the odd character motions on screen, which is definitely to the game's benefit. Most of the voices were done with just the right sense of emotion to keep the game from feeling weak or unbelievable.
Indigo Prophecy was built with replayability in mind. There are at least three different endings, not to mention that there multiple game-over endings. Despite all these endings, though, the game is actually fairly linear in nature. True, you can change some outcomes, such as finding certain pieces of evidence at the murder scene, but the overall events of the game will happen all the same. For instance, if Carla doesn't find Lucas' book, a random officer will find it and give it to her later on. The actual ending is determined within the last two chapters no matter what was done previous in the game. This isn't to say the game is all linear. It is fun to see the different ways a scenario can be played out, even though the basic story always remains the same. That said certain side stories can be lightly affected by the choices you make.