From Software have shifted to the point and click, only it’s actually Assemble Entertainment, and Lacuna Prologue is not a traditional point and click, preferring to break the rules a bit with a unique experience.
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That Dark Souls reference is based on DigiTales Interactive’s approach to the genre. There are no manual saves in the game: what is done cannot be undone, as faithfully told by the aforementioned game. This makes for a risky affair, therefore an exciting one.
Set in a distant future, we have two warring states Ghara and Drovia. Tension is picking up between the two as a murder could send the universe/galaxy into chaos. There’s one person that can prevent that: Philips CDI agent Neil Conrad.
Here we have the Lacuna Prologue, currently available to play as a demo until the release date. It isn’t a point and click as immediately the controls demand you use A and D to walk. Well, not demands, but moving the mouse and clicking about does diddly squat. But… you can use the mouse to select your dialogue responses, which can be timed.
You begin as a student, Mira, as she needs to make her way to class by completing a couple of tutorial-like tasks and get acquainted with the controls. Like a wetsuit that’s two sizes too small, it took some time to get into, but the result was good.
Pressing space will highlight points of interest. From here, it’s possible to interact with the surrounding area, but you aren’t able to interact with people when in this mode. Think of it as a highlight mode.
Investigatory work or research, plays a fundamental role in the game. Pressing C (for cellphone) brings up a menu system of objectives, news and clues that will help your mission – in this case, an assignment from Mira’s teacher. The phone also records all your conversations, like drunken booty texts. Stored forever, you can revisit dialogue for clues or remind yourself not to drink so much and ask an old flame what they’re currently wearing.
Submit, Conform, Science
When you’re ready, you can submit the answers to the assignment via the sheets tab in the cellphone menu, but be advised; you only get one shot. There’s a running theme here that mimics reality, and that’s great.
In some respects, Lacuna Prologue shares a similar approach to the upcoming Chinatown Detective Agency game, where having a pen and paper to hand would be worth your while. In the case of this demo, jotting down critical facts from the articles presented to Mira would be beneficial, unless you have a good memory. If the latter is an accurate assumption of your abilities, make good use of the pen and paper by drawing boobs, willies – whatever it is you like to doodle. For everyone else, note-taking is recommended due to the ‘one shot’ mentality of the game.
Perhaps this game isn’t entirely accurate as I lack the latter and managed to ace the first test. Fascinating though, as you connect more with the game as the risk of failure is high, so there’s more at stake. If you aren’t committed, play something else, but it’s likely that if you’re reading this, you’re a keen adventurer/problem solver. In which case, Lacuna Prologue delivers.
That mechanic carries across as you move to another character, CDI agent Neil. Neil’s segment is a little more appealing. Whether that’s to do with the character or the fact that his story’s a little more interesting is unclear, but one thing that differs from Mira is the voiceover – it’s 100% text-based for the latter.
Neil’s section also introduces another tab in the cellphone that includes emails and also the numeric keypad. Pressing N brings up a keycode system which presumably features quite a bit in the full game. Aside from pin codes, which you can scan for, relying on text and thoroughly reading makes the game more compelling. You’re less likely to skim over the words as there are consequences. Perhaps I’ll include that mechanic in my reviews.
It’s funny because I read through Mira’s text as if preparing for a test, but when downloading a news piece to Neil’s phone, told myself I’d read it later. When Neil took a call from his co-worker and asked him if he’d read the news, telling the truth was the only option and more reason to digest everything.
The problem with Lacuna Prologue? Direction. Of course, familiarity will mean that navigating around the place will be a doddle in time, but at first, it isn’t so clear on where to go. As Mira had access to a map later on in her part of the story, fingers crossed, one will be available early on in the full game.
The art style is nice, like The Darkside Detective: A Fumble In The Dark, but not as vibrant. That’s not a dig, it’s just that a 90s rave palette wouldn’t work. We’ve seen enough neon to last us a lifetime in most cyberpunk games, and while this is set in a moderately dystopian environment, it’s not a by-the-book cyberpunk.
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First impressions went against the grain, primarily because of the keyboard input and the slight urgency to make dialogue choices compared to the conventional approach to the genre. However, this all works in Lacuna Prologue’s cause as consequences mean investment, investment means highly satisfied, highly satisfied means… you get the point.
Lacuna Prologue is out now, with the full game arriving on the 20th May. In short, give it a go and leave your thoughts in the comments. Is this one you’ve added to your wishlist, or do you prefer something a bit more traditional?