Monday, October 24, 2005

VG REVIEW: Indigo Prophecy

Is this the part where I complain about how hard it is to blog on a regular basis? No? My bad. Here's this Sunday's review of the fabulous "Indigo Prophecy:"

Atari, for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC
rated M for Mature (blood, par­tial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs and alcohol, violence)

RATING: Three and a half stars

Armchair pundits frequently like to compare the video game industry with the movie business, although the two forms have little to do with each other aesthetically.

Nevertheless, many game developers have attempted to create "interactive movies" at times in the past, few of which are actually worthy of note.

That all changes with the release of "Indigo Prophecy," an adventure game (remember those?) with a gripping story and some inventive ideas in game design.

In "Indigo," you play Lucas Kane, an average schlub who, to his horror, wakes up in a restaurant bathroom only to discover he has just killed a man, though he can’t remember why. The game follows Lucas as he tries to stay one step ahead of the law and uncover the conspiracy that led him unwittingly to commit murder.

Kane isn’t the only character you take control of, however. You also will be playing as Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, the two detectives assigned to investigate the case.

This switching back and forth between roles adds a good deal of nuance to the game. Do you help the detectives, drawing the net tighter around Kane, or do you put in false leads, thus giving Kane more time to figure out what happened to him?

There’s more to the game than simply playing as multiple characters though. In past adventure games such as "Myst" or "The Last Express," you’d interact with your environment by walking up to an object and clicking on it or pressing a button. "Indigo’s" developers have attempted to create something more intuitive, however.

By moving the right thumbstick up, down or to the side, you can do anything from open doors, climb over fences or search for clues (the game lets you know what items can be interacted with).

The same rules apply when talking with other characters. When engaged in conversation, a number of dialogue choices appear at the top of the screen. Your answer depends upon which way you flick the thumbstick. You only have a limited amount of time to answer, however, forcing you to make your choices carefully.

In other, more frenetic sequences, you play a version of "Simon says," and have to move both left and right thumbsticks in the same pattern presented on screen. Or you might be rapidly pushing the left and right triggers to keep your balance while walking across a narrow beam.

As you might have guessed by the above description, there are many different paths you can take while playing "Indigo Prime," and several different endings. Many games have offered this sort of branching storyline, but few have been as fluid and effective at it as this game.

There are a few quibbles. The characters, which come off as blocky and stiff, can be tough to maneuver at times. The camera can be problematic as well. And while the game’s basic premise is solid, the dialogue is laughable at times, and the plot takes some rather incredible leaps of logic toward the end.

None of these things ultimately mars the overall experience, however. In an age when most video games are churned out in cookie-cutter fashion, "Indigo Prime" has the courage to offer something that makes you rethink how and why we play video games and how these "interactive movies" should be done. Let’s hope more developers learn from its example.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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