A hypothetical conversation at Lucasarts:
Lucasarts Executive: We need something to make some quick easy money. What’s around at the moment that’s popular and simple to make?
Assistant: These indie platform puzzle games are popular at the moment, sir.
Executive: That’s right! With our resources we could knock one of those up very quickly. DEREK!
Programmer: Yes sir?
Executive: Make me one of these puzzle platformer thingies. Do it like those indie developers do.
Programmer: But those are usually intelligently designed around a clever concept and have meaningful themes.
Executive: Never mind that! Just pretend that it’s all a metaphor for some part of life and make sure the graphics are cute and stylised. Nobody will know the difference.
Programmer: And the gameplay?
Executive: Don’t bother me with unimportant details man! Just get it made! You’ve got a week.
Lucidity really feels like a cynical attempt at cashing in on the success of indie games like Braid, while missing out on the point of what made these games a success. Who would have thought that anything George Lucas’s company was involved in could end up being a cash-in? The fact is that the indie games often had clever gameplay with puzzles that required genuine thought, where Lucidity relies almost entirely on random chance.
Lucidity is a cutely styled puzzle game that resembles a platform game in appearance. It follows Sofi, a small girl whose parents apparently couldn’t spell their own daughter’s name. Each level features her wandering innocently across her dreams (because she dreams in two-dimensional game screens it seems) with no regard for obstacles or danger that might be in her way. That’s where you come in as you place random items onto the screen to direct her round the levels. And when I say random, I mean that literally.
There’s only a very small number of objects that you can use (planks, slingshots, fans, bombs and stairs) and the one you get next is chosen entirely at random. To make matters worse, there’s no way of discarding an item that’s now use, so if you get one there’s no choice but to find an empty space and place it on the screen. Given that you can end up getting the same items several times in a row, this can get hugely annoying, especially since later levels are timed. You can place one single item on hold to bring back later, but it’s rarely all that helpful. The gameplay feels like Lemmings as created by someone who can’t be bothered to think up actual puzzles. (Or perhaps it’s even more reminiscent of the old Sleepwalker game that was made for Comic Relief.)
There’s really not much else to the game. As Sofi wanders the areas there are fireflies scattered around that you can collect that restore her health if she has been injured. Collecting enough of these unlocks bonus levels. There’s not a great deal of incentive to unlock these levels unless you really love the gameplay. Sadly, the basic game without the bonus levels barely lasts two hours and yet feels like it’s dragging and wears out its welcome well before the end. The extra couple of hours you can spend collecting all the fireflies and completing the bonus levels are just the same as the main game, just even more frustrating since the levels are more complex.
As with some of the indie games it imitates, Lucidity’s levels are supposed to be a metaphor for the mental state of the character. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the levels to suggest this. They appear like generic platform game levels. It’s like the gameplay and story concept were developed separately and then just thrown at each other. There’s no melding between the two and neither of the elements is very good anyway.
The graphics are the one thing the game does do well. Everything looks good and the style is cute, though perhaps too cute for its own good. Even here though, they’re merely good and don’t excel. It’s always hard to shake the feeling that there was no enthusiasm put into the game. It just feels like a big developer jumping on a bandwagon and missing the whole point of why people liked the games they’re copying. Not completely terrible, but there’s nothing of much interest here either.
Arbitrary Final Score:
If you like this, you might also like: Lemmings series, Sleepwalker
Is Lucidity a dream game or a corporate cash-in nightmare? Let us know what you think in the forum!