Saturday, June 07, 2008

Indigo Prophecy

Indigo Prophecy (2005)

What Indigo Prophecy Does Right:
Brilliant Concept:
Play as both the murderer and the detective, make split-second decisions regarding your fate, and watch the conflict as you progress through the case.
- Inventive Control Scheme: By preforming different gestures with the mouse, the player can enact different actions all with one click. No more need for different verb buttons such as "Push," "Pull," or any of that nonsense. It's extremely intuitive.
- Well Written Characters: All of the characters in the game have different emotions, motives, dreams, and personalities, and because of that they are easily sympathized with.
- A Mental Heath Meter: Each playable character has their own mental health that you must take care of. This was a great design choice, because it adds meaning to the basic and mundane tasks of everyday life you can perform in the game, as well as to the monumental tasks you can also make.
- Warning Signs for Interactive Cut-Scenes: You know those cut-scenes where a game says "TAP X" really fast in the middle of it, and if you don't, you die? Well, Indigo Prophecy has a lot of extended "simon-says"sequences of this, but they fixed one problem of it that Resident Evil 4 had. The problem was that you didn't know if you were supposed sit back and enjoy a cut-scene, or have your fingers tense, ready to press "A" to dodge when you needed to. Indigo Prophecy blatantly flashes "GET READY!" before each tapping sequence, so, problem solved!

What Indigo Prophecy Does Wrong:
Extended Tapping Sequences: I don't have any personal issues with having "interactive-tapping" cut-scenes, but there are some serious gripes with the ones in Indigo Prophecy. For starters, many of them are ridiculously long (some seem to go up to five minutes in length) and the whole time you are tapping buttons trying to keep up with the tapping buttons indicator. Which made me wonder in the first place, isn't there a better way to make this game more interact-able? I mean, why have the player watch a five minute action scene and have him tap seemingly unconnected buttons on the side-line, when you can instead have the player actually preforming the action in the scene? I would rather play some kind of action/adventure hybrid, than a pure adventure game that has me mash unrelated buttons during every cut-scene.
- Ridiculous Story Payoff: Alright, so the story started off great: you have a guy in a bathroom who murders someone without realizing it, and then you have a couple of cops on his trail. It only gets worse from there, however. I started getting worried after the first "dream" action-sequence-button-mashing thing, where I had to run away from giant bugs resembling enormous beetles. After that, I started becoming increasingly wary when I had to continue these button-mashing-action-sequences to escape my own furniture from flying up and attacking me in my apartment (It was a dream sequence, but come on). Then the whole situation became downright laughable as the main character seemed to gain superhuman powers and started flying and preforming bullet-time out of nowhere. Sure, they explained it a scene or two later by changing the story into some weird
amalgamation of Star Wars and The Matrix--the main character now being Luke or Neo--but it was still extremely ridiculous, and stayed so, even after the explanation. Finally, the last act of the story was a total jump into supernatural, science fiction, conspiracy theory madness and never fully explained itself in detail. In the end, the story can barely be redeemed if at all.
- Bonus Cards: You see them in games all the time: power ups. These things lie around the game world, usually animate by rotating, and you as the player must pick them up to gain health or new abilities. There's nothing wrong with this, but Indigo Prophecy actually has them in the dead-serious atmospheric and dark story that they've set up. Think about it: In one section of the story you're investigating the corpse of a victim in the morgue, and then making composition sketches of the killer, and by accident you happen to stumble upon a "bonus" card that gives you ten "points?" These cards seem way out of place, especially since there's nothing else like them in the game. The only reason they serve is to unlock bonus content after you complete the game, the bonus content being stuff like "the making of" videos and soundtracks. Why couldn't they just drop the cards, and unlock certain bonus content depending on the quality of the ending you received? That would've made much more sense and kept the dark immersion factor, in my opinion.
- Superficial Interaction: At one point in the game, I was performing so many mundane actions and trifle moves, I was wondering whether I was actually playing a game, or just clicking every once in a while and watching this 'movie' unfold. I wanted to be making more choices in the game, just like in the first scene, where I had many avenues to run down as I sat in the crime scene. I didn't want to be the little "play" button every time the game decided it want to pause itself for some superficial interaction, but unfortunately, that's what many of the scenes felt like. There would be many cut-scenes where you control the character as he walks from room to room, door to door, but with no real gameplay attached to it.
- The Role of Movies and Games: Since Indigo Prophecy is probably one of the closest things we have today to an interactive movie, the line of how close do we want to be like a movie must be drawn somewhere. Just like in movies, Indigo Prophecy has scenes that have nothing to do with the main plot and seem to just build up character. That makes sense in a movie, but how does it make sense in a game? Yes, we need to care about the characters, but then we start blurring the line between movie and game, as well as between active interaction and passive viewing.

In short, Indigo Prophecy is a game that has a brilliant concept, with some shining areas of execution
despite several major gameplay faults, but unfortunately falls flat into a ridiculous narrative mess during the second half.

Final Score: 7.9/10



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