Reviewed: October 24, 2005
Released: September 20, 2005
I have had my hand at various adventure games in my day, from the epic Myst, series, to Out of this World for Genesis, and most recently with Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern. One of my biggest gripes was how detached you were from the action. Most just consisted of pointing and clicking, and a wealth of puzzle elements, resulting in some serious brow sweating. Thankfully, Indigo Prophecy takes a different approach in this title.
From French developer Quantic Dreams, whose last major project was in 1999 with Omikron, an adventure game featuring the talent of the legendary David Bowie, they now bring us this eclectic hybrid of action and adventure, mixing intense psychological elements, the occult, and murder, all with cinematic flair. Look for this game to easily be the sleeper hit of the year.
A handy tutorial greets you, explaining the game mechanics, interface and so on, by the brains behind the game, Mr. David Gage. He stresses the emotional/mental well being of your character as being paramount, as it could end up in some dire situations if left unchecked.
After you learn the ropes, you start the game as one Lucas Kain, a computer tech at a financial company. Lucas has seen better days, to say the least. Apparently, he has just stabbed a man to death in a decrepit diner bathroom; all the while a cop sits at the counter, sipping his coffee. Lucas snaps out his trance like state and starts to panic.
As I said before, controlling your attitude is key in this game, in the form of a handy meter displaying where you are from the sane, to crazy, spectrum. Obviously staying in the neutral to good area, is where you want to be. Good luck, because throughout, Lucas is challenged and pushed to the brink. The opening scene is only the tip of the iceberg.
Hot on his case are two New York City cops, Tyler Miles and Carla Valenti, whom you get to control later on, as well as Markus Kane, Lucasís brother. This switching between characters is really key to the game, as each can help fill in a missing piece of the story, especially with the two detectives.
A pretty cool feature is how Lucas travels from scene to scene, in particular what clues he may leave behind for the law to find, it can all change based on how sloppy, or careful, you are. The interactions between the various characters in this dark, and brooding NYC area, are really well done-it truly is a movie-like experience.
The people that have played the Metal Gear Solid series, and thought that was a worthy mix of cinema and gameplay, will be blown away by Indigo Prophecy. The dialogue, the acting, the camera angles, pacing etc, are all excellent and on par with a big budget film. Another nice feature is the auto-save feature after each of the 44 chapters, so you donít have to replay huge segments of the game. ( Fable-grrrrrÖ).
So how exactly do you control your character then? Well like most adventure games, you scan a certain area and are presented with options to interact with various objects. This involves holding down certain keys, most of the time just your mouse button, and clicking a lot on specific things. Sometimes you will have to moves your mouse in such a way as to emulate the directions onscreen, such as climbing for instance. Itís rather intuitive really.
One word of advice, if you have a controller that has dual analog sticks- USE IT. It really makes life a lot simple. Sometimes a time sensitive action sequence initiates, where you have to shift both sticks around, a lot based on timing and some twitch skills. Think... Pa Rappa The Rappa, meets the The Suffering. This can get a little tricky with all the options on the keyboard, so like I said, keep it simple with a game pad.
These arenít so bad really, the point is after all to lead you through the story, not frustrate to the point of uninstalling it. You can even bust out some sick Matrix-esque moves if done just right. The conversations can also throw you for a loop. Each time you talk to someone, a bar is counting down the time between choices, keeping you on your toes, rather than most games that hold your hand in the NPC dialogue process. Overall, a really gripping experience.
Unlike most adventure games, which usually sport sharp visuals due to their less than adrenaline-packed gameplay, Indigo Prophecy suffers a bit in the graphics department. Textures are fuzzy, rough and generally sub-par for this genre. The constant gritty nature is fitting, but sometimes it becomes overly murky and hard to make out details.
The animations are a bit stiff and donít quite mesh well with certain situations, like fighting, although the slow-motion sequences hold up pretty good. Facial details, such as matching words to lip movement seems to be off occasionally, or they may seem wrong for particular emotions, but it doesnít detract too much. The camera angles are a bit funky at times as well; it will rotate on you and hamper your perspective on occasion.
Thankfully, you wonít need a monster rig to run the game, and after all, this game is all about depth and content, not flashy visuals. Overall, the graphics engine look dated, but do a fine job of conveying the action.
While the graphics arenít up to snuff for 2005 standards, the auditory experience is really top notch. The voice acting is very believable, and you wonít catch any funky lines aimed at cheap laughs. Characters donít prattle on about this and that, or really go outside their identities- they stay true to form.
Itís excellent score is composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who has worked on such eerie like Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, both from the equally off center mind of David Lynch. No wonder the music fits this game so perfectly. It makes you uncomfortable, and cranks up the tension subtlety, just enough to keep you constantly on edge.
Indigo Prophecy should take you a few days to beat (15-20 hours), as some of the button combos may set you back from time to time. The alternate endings and storyline paths may be interesting to explore, but it ultimately ends up about the same way from what I gather. As bonus to observant gamers, are the numerous Easter eggs, like artwork, movies, special sequences, all available via bonus points.
So if you feel like trying the game on itís 3 difficulty settings, or trying different options another time around with the 4 characters, you might as well go for the extra goodies. Not a tremendous amount of replay value, but it will leave you with an indelible experience, much more worthy than a couple hours of fluff gameplay.
Iíll make this pretty clear- adventure fans owe it to themselves to get Indigo Prophecy. Period. With the already dwindling selection of games in this genre, this title breathes new life into a former staple of the PC world, and introduces some intriguing style as well It combines elements from some of the best movies of our day, a hauntingly gorgeous soundtrack, and diverse array of challenges to overcome, as you unravel the mystery.
This is a twisted and deranged game, and I loved every minute of it.