Lucidity

Lucidity is made by the same team that worked on The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. Surprisingly it’s a new IP, something very rare when it comes to LucasArts these days!  It’s also not an adventure game but rather a puzzle platformer. Lucidity is a fun little game that won’t change your life, it’s beautiful looking but that doesn’t stop the gameplay from coming off a little dull in execution.

The story is completely voiceless and told quite subtly. It shows us a young girl called Sofi and her relationship to her nana as she explores the levels within her dreams. Sofi calmly toes her way through a forest in a red bonnet, looking a lot like Little Red Hiding Hood. At the start of each level Sofi has a wee entry jotted down in her journal. At the end when Sofi safely reaches the letterbox, she’ll pull out a postcard from her Nana that will often be an encouraging response to Sofi’s earlier journal entry. For the most part these messages also slightly relate to the levels in some way.

Sofi and her nan, home sweet home

You don’t move Sofi but instead place objects in her path so she won’t meet a grisly end, a similar concept to Lemmings. These objects include planks, ladders, stairs, tramps, fans, slingshots and explosives. The gameplay is rather simple and you’ll get to grips with it in the first few minutes of playing. In a few more levels you’ll have encountered every item available to you. The items are chosen Tetris styles and appear as blueprints waiting to be placed on screen. There’s a little hold area too to keep one piece for later.

Unfortunately this Tetris variant often causes a great deal of frustration, putting little Sofi in danger. This only becomes apparent in the later levels when a wall of black sky inching from the left requires you to keep moving at all times. The objects seem to come at random and a lot of the time I had to spam the area, placing objects down in useless spots so I could get the one I actually needed. Part of me thinks it was put there simply so the player wouldn’t finish the game so damn quickly. A simple button to cycle through the items would starve away this annoyance I’m sure. I’m also thinking the controls would be a lot easier on the PC version. Moving a cursor with an analog stick isn’t as precise as I would like it sometimes.

Sofi's nightmares can get the best of her

The levels get very punishing and it may take some trial and error to get it right. When Sofi takes damage she’ll need to replenish her fireflies, similar to the way Sonic needs his rings. There are no checkpoints but the levels aren’t overly long anyway. The puzzle platformer label is kind of misleading. You’re just trying to get from A to B, there’s not really that much puzzle solving involved. I think it’s more about reflexes, putting down an object quick enough to save Sofi’s skin. I wish you could control the camera even just a little bit, to look up and down. Sometimes Sofi falls from great heights and you can do nothing except hope to God there’s something solid and safe down below you.

Even with  a unique design, the game just feels boring a lot of the time. This is largely due to the repetitiveness of the core mechanics. In all the later stages there’s no more new objects to use, as you mastered them all early on. There are 43 levels, some of those are unlockable once you have enough fireflies and those are separate to the story. A few Achievements are popped in there as well to get you going back for more fireflies, which might be a mammoth task to undertake. There’s variation in the paths you can take as the levels are quite vertical. You could do the same level more than once and experience it a bit differently.

Walking on the clouds

Lucidity has a very unique art style. Sofi and many of the enemies are actually modelled in 3D but appear in 2D to match the environment. It looks very much like a kid’s pop-up book. Sofi’s travels can lead her through tall woods, underwater vistas and celestial fields. The enemies range from frogs, to walking mushrooms, to flying dust bunnies. The pit holes which kill you instantly are second only to those bloody bunnies! The grey squares on screen that hold the items could be a lot less obtrusive if they were transparent but at present they clog up the screen, a real shame for such pretty game as this.

Lucidity’s levels seem like they would be perfect for a level editor mode. I actually scoured the menus in search of one, but there was none to be found. It’s not a game changer but it might’ve added a bit more replay value for some people. You may have guessed it from the screenshots, the team were inspired by Braid and other indie games. As for the music, it seemed to fit well within the levels, although a few tracks didn’t. For example, there was a cheerful jazz tune inside a level that was supposed to be scary. The mournful song in the title screen stood out to me as particularly haunting.

Closing Comments

For those that are interested, the team has discussed their design process quite openly over on their blog. Overall, Lucidity is mildly entertaining but nothing to jump up and down about. I still hope the LucasArts team keep toying with new ideas, its very refreshing to see their philosophy change over from countless Star Wars clones to finally embracing their creative side.

Released on 7/10/09 for 800 MS points

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