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Platform: PlayStation 2
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Quantic Dreams
ESRB: M (Mature)
Released: October 2, 2005

 

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Indigo Prophecy

Score: 7.5/10

Pros:

- Open-endedness

- Likeable characters

- A decent story

- The environments

 

Cons:

- Action sequences

- Whose side am I on, anyway?

- Some hotspot issues

 

Related Links:

Review: Shenmue II (XB)

Review: Indigo Prophecy (PC)

 

"For the most part, Indigo Prophecy is a step in the right direction..."

 

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Way back when Shenmue first came out for the Dreamcast, it showed how the adventure genre could evolve.  The game proved that the puzzle solving, and general sleuthing involved with adventures could actually be incorporated into a more frenetic environment thanks to the game’s Quick Time Events features.  Now, five years later, it seems that the folks at Quantic Dreams saw a thing or two that they liked in Shenmue, and have translated it into a gritty, supernatural adventure called Indigo Prophecy.  While the game’s “choose your own adventure” open-endedness, engaging story, and well designed environments go a long way in making for an interesting romp, some key issues with the gameplay prevent Indigo Prophecy from being a truly great title.

 

From the opening scene, this game is very cinematic.  It’s quite apparent from the camera angles, split screen scene displays, and various settings that take place in Indigo Prophecy that its developers want people to feel like they’re playing a movie.  On top of this, the overall details in the visuals are quite high.  Combined, these facets of the game’s aesthetic work extremely well at drawing players in.

 

Adding upon this is that the story is reasonably well written.  Walking a line between being a crime drama, and spooky thriller, the game follows the story of Lucas Kane who finds himself possessed by mysterious forces that cause him to kill a man in the bathroom of a diner.  Once Lucas comes out of his trance, he realizes he did a very bad thing, and has to quickly hide his crime and get out of that diner.  Of course, the body is eventually discovered, bringing the police onto the scene.  With that, players must help Lucas figure out what’s going on while doing double duty of keeping him from getting caught, while at the same time trying to catch him while playing as the two police assigned to the murder case, Carla and Tyler.  What makes the plot work well isn’t the goals of the characters, or the events in the 

game so much as it is that the various characters are extremely likeable.  Tyler is hard not to like for his easygoing attitude, Carla, while sometimes a little overly serious, fills the role of a hard working cop quite well, and there are plenty of instances that draw sympathy for Lucas’ plight.  Even the majority of the supporting cast are quite believable, which is nice.

 

However, the constant seesaw back and forth between playing as Lucas, trying to keep him from getting caught, and then playing as Carla and Tyler, who are chasing after him for murder sometimes takes away from the game because it leaves players confused as to just whose side 

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they are on.  Are we helping Lucas or the police?  With this, it’s quite easy to find one’s self purposely choosing certain options in dialogue boxes that can help or hinder the main characters in the game, almost as though players are telegraphing later events in the game.  Having players take on different sides with conflicting goals feels more like added gameplay for the sake of adding it.  Spending a large part of the game trying to keep from being caught and catching yourself at the same time just feels amazingly counter intuitive.

 

Further impacting one’s ability to properly enjoy Indigo Prophecy are the various action sequences in the game.  These work by players copying on-screen prompts that tell players to move their analogue sticks in certain directions.  As the game goes on, these sequences can be good twitchy moments to test one’s reflexes, but the developers went into overkill when implementing them into the game.  During an action sequence it makes sense to have these prompts, but for reasons that defy logic the sequences are also sometimes included during dialogue scenes.  All this winds up doing is distracting the player from fully absorbing the advance in the plot because he’s too worried about what button needs to be hit next.  Turning down the game’s difficulty can make these sequences less obtrusive, but this is something that should never have been necessary in the first place.

 

However, despite these two complaints, there are some facets of the gameplay that are fresh and intriguing.  Firstly, there is the constant need to monitor the mental state of the various characters.  The more bad things that happen to them, and the more often that they make bad decisions, the more stressed out and depressed they will come.  Especially in the case of Lucas, it becomes apparent that the ethically right thing to do isn’t necessarily the best thing to do, as it can put a huge amount of mental strain on a character depending on the severity of the outcome.  In fact, if characters get too stressed out, they can find themselves committed to a psychiatric ward and the game will end.  Because of this, players need to think a lot more carefully about their actions.  While our instincts may tell us to “do the right thing” the results may be too much of a strain on the game characters, thus causing players to balance their actions a lot more, and possibly risk some suspicious behavior while they’re at it.

 

This ability to choose how to tackle a situation is often performed through the game giving players a variety of responses that they can use during conversations with other characters.  While these responses impact characters’ mental well being, they can also cause the story to branch in a different direction, bringing a “choose your own adventure” quality to the game.  It’s quite surprising just how much this can cause one person to have a noticeably different experience with Indigo Prophecy than someone else.  When discussing the game with Omni, we discovered that he had to play an entire sequence of the game by going to the “Chapters” option in the menu, instead of playing it as a natural progression of the game like I did.

 

Interacting with the environments is also quite a bit of fun, as there are plenty of things that can be fiddled with that don’t have any direct impact on the game but give players a little something extra to do.  One issue, though, is that hot spots can sometimes be tiny.  As such, players may find themselves fumbling around in order to get at an important object.  Nonetheless, it’s fun just wandering around apartments eating stuff, rummaging through cupboards, or turning on a radio.  Being able to do this helps to make Indigo Prophecy feel more alive.

 

For the most part, Indigo Prophecy is a step in the right direction with its wonderful atmosphere, likeable characters, and ability to choose one’s fate.  By going this route, it’s helping the genre continue to break away from the traditional point and click adventures from times of yore.  Sometimes the game throws a bit too many gameplay ideas at the player through its constant switching between playing as Lucas and the cops, as well as the over emphasis on action sequences, but they aren’t so awful as to ruin the game.  If you’re itching for a new adventure title, Indigo Prophecy should fit the bill nicely.

 

Mr. Nash

November 14, 2005

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