|System: X360 (XBLA), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: LucasArts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: LucasArts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 7, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Many developers have taken cracks at the newest style of puzzle game, which combines innovative gameplay with quirky art, low-key music, and often a Tim Burton inspired feel. Braid, World of Goo - the list goes on, and many of the titles on it are terrific.
With Lucidity, LucasArts wades into this deep, crowded, indie-dominated pool. The title certainly has its charms, but it lacks the addictive edge that makes the genre's best entries so compelling. At $10 it's not a bad buy, but its various flaws will keep it off of year-end best-of lists.
The levels in Lucidity are dreams. The main character, Sofi, moves through the 2-D platform levels from left to right, and at the end of each she finds a postcard from her lost grandmother, at whose house she's staying. The plot has much to say about the way children see the world, and is quite arguably the game's best attribute.
The graphics compete for that honor as well. They're beautiful, with dreary but somehow enchanting colors, parallax scrolling, and a wonderful art style that evokes children's books. Given what games like this do with '90s-era two-dimensional technology, one almost pines for the days of Super Nintendo. Who needs all those polygons? The music also does its job in creating the game's mood, splitting the difference between Braid's soothing, lonely sounds and the lively, quirky, and spooky tunes from World of Goo.
Like Braid, Lucidity presents itself as a puzzle-oriented reimagining of the platformer genre. Unlike Braid, Lucidity's idea has been done before; the gameplay essentially remakes that of 1991's Lemmings. Sofi seems to be sleepwalking more than dreaming; she simply walks forward, no matter what hazard lies in her path. She'll walk off cliffs and into monsters. Your job, of course, is to keep her from getting hurt.
For this task you're given a random selection of objects, which, using the cursor, you place in her path. You're allowed to "hold" one item at a time for future use, and you're shown the next item on the list. Items include everything from simple blocks for her to walk on to slingshots that propel her across chasms to bombs that eliminate hostile creatures. If she falls into a pit or touches too many dangerous things, she returns to the start of the level. If she doesn't, there's a mailbox at the end (a sort of tribute to the flagpoles from Super Mario Bros.) with her new postcard.
The level design is superb and surprisingly vertical. If you can lift Sofi onto the higher platforms and keep her there, any given level will be almost completely different than the one you'd play closer to the ground. Also, the game gradually introduces new backgrounds, new items, and new obstacles, keeping both the mood and the gameplay fresh as you advance.
There are two goals in each level. The first, of course, is simply to make it to the end. The second is to capture all the fireflies, which is usually impossible to do in a single pass (some of the fireflies are on mutually exclusive paths). This offers replay value, provides a challenge for hardcore gamers, and opens up bonus levels.
Unfortunately, there are some features to this game that make it needlessly frustrating. It's so frustrating, in fact, that many to most players probably won't stick it out until the end.
One of these problems is the camera. Sofi moves slowly, which in theory should give you plenty of time to work ahead, placing items far in front of her. However, the camera keeps her in the center of the screen, making your TV's borders the limits of your building space. This is especially frustrating when Sofi is on a high ledge, because there's no way to tell what she'll fall into if you let her walk off the edge.