If there's one genre of game that's really taken a beating in the era of first-person shooters and other fast-paced games, it has to be the classic adventure. It seems that most people have completely forgotten the humble beginnings of the PC game, with text-based adventures ruling the day and soon being followed with graphical classics like King's Quest and Monkey Island. Most gamers today are impatient souls who want their action fast and frantic, their gratification instant, and their hands held to the end. This has created a vacuum in the adventure genre, with most offerings being budget works that are barely fit to serve as coasters. Occasionally, however, we're blessed with a Longest Journey or a Syberia that makes the wait worthwhile. The latest adventure game to come down the pike, Indigo Prophecy has been highly anticipated as a possible shot in the arm of the adventure genre.
Billed as a "unique combination of gaming and cinematography," Indigo Prophecy attempts to provide an adventure that plays out like a movie. With multiple viewpoints, the ability to control four different characters, and some action elements, Indigo Prophecy pushes the envelope in several ways. Avoiding the typical "point and click" or "pixel-hunting" characteristics that have plagued its predecessors, IP utilizes a much more simple and streamlined approach.
The story revolves around Lucas Kane, an ordinary-looking fellow who gets caught up in some extraordinary events. Basically, he goes into a trance and kills someone in a diner bathroom, with no knowledge of what's happening or why he's done it. Playing as Lucas, you'll try to find out more about your predicament while attempting to avoid capture by the two detectives working on the case, Tyler Miles and Carla Vincent, who are also playable. Marcus Kane, Lucas' brother, also becomes playable for a short time, but the main focus is on the detectives and Lucas. It's quite interesting to take control of both the murderer and the ones trying to catch him, and works well as a story-driving element.
If you've got a d-pad for your PC, you'll probably want to use it for Indigo Prophecy, as it makes the game immeasurably easier to control. The mouse and keyboard are certainly usable, but may have a longer learning curve. The mouse is used to guide your character across the screen, and when you approach something that can be interacted with, an icon appears at the top of the screen with a simple line beneath it. The line represents how you need to move the mouse to interact with the object. Simply hold down the mouse button and trace the line, and you'll take a drink, or talk to the policeman, or perform whatever other action is available to you. It takes a few tries to get it down perfectly, but once you're familiar with how it works, it becomes second nature. Moving around is also handled with the mouse, and you use the right mouse button to guide your character across the screen, holding the shift key to run.
When not interacting with objects or moving from place to place, you'll probably be mashing the left and right arrow keys in an attempt to perform some feat of strength or other task, or involved in what initially appears to be a game of "Simon" on the screen. At certain points in the game, you'll be required to utilize the arrow and number pad keys to respond to the flashing lights on the screen from the two "Simon-esque" icons. You're given a certain number of chances before you fail completely. Success usually results in some further insight into the plot or a useful movement on the screen. Failure results in a loss of confidence and a higher stress level for the character, which comes into play often. If your sanity level dips low enough, it can result in an unhappy ending for whichever character you're controlling.
Speaking of endings, there are quite a few that you can work your way towards, and it all depends on what actions you take during the storyline. As Lucas, you can do all you can to cover your tracks, or you can leave tons of evidence lying around. As the detectives, you can do a shoddy investigation, or really put your CSI skills to work. There are also tons of ways to interact with the various people and places, each with an interesting effect that may or may not influence the final result of the game, but are cool nonetheless. There are few actual "puzzles" in the game, as most of them are so well integrated into the story that you'll hardly realize you're working one out. As a bonus for snooping in every little corner, you'll find cards you can pick up that give you points to spend on bonus materials, such as artwork, in-game movies, or music. There's definitely a lot to play for here, and although the adventure remains mostly the same on the second time through, it's fun to experiment by doing things you avoided the first time.
Indigo Prophecy is no slouch in the graphical department either. There are plenty of varied textures and models in all of the locations, giving the game a real sense of variety. It's not the pinnacle of technical achievement, though. If you've got a beefy system, you'll appreciate being able to run the game at a high resolution without any hiccups, as it doesn't have all of the latest shaders and other bells and whistles. There are some nice looking shadows and other effects, and of course, the cinematic camera angles provide plenty of atmosphere. The character models are well done and animated well. Cut scenes are done in-engine, and this helps keep the continuity intact. Overall, you'll be pleased with the end result, as Quantic Dream really lived up to the hype when it comes to providing a movie-like atmosphere for the game.
Sound-wise, the game has its ups and downs, but for the most part, the sound is superb. The soundtrack in Indigo Prophecy is really superb. The music in this game is top-notch, and provides tons of ambience and tension in the appropriate settings, really setting the tone for the game and matching the mood of the characters perfectly. There are other times that you'll get a taste of how great the music is, like when Lucas sits down to play his guitar, or when you turn on the radio. Voice acting is incredible, and the people doing the voices for each of the characters really nail it. It's hard to find great voice acting in most games these days, but you'll experience some of the best here. Sound effects are also really excellent; everything sounds like it should. The only beef I had with the sound is that occasionally the voices are a bit soft at times, making them hard to hear, and the fact that there's a "heartbeat" effect that seems to pervade tense scenes, which is a bit annoying, but overall, the sound is terrific.
In the long run, although you'll find yourself bothered by the control scheme, the just-above-average graphics, and the minor sound quibbles, you'll forget it all as you get sucked in to the story of Indigo Prophecy. The movie-like atmosphere is almost enough to make you completely forget that you're playing a game, and the suspense and surprise in the plot makes you want to play right up to the very end. In my mind, that alone has made Indigo Prophecy a stellar success. An adventure game that breaks a lot of the established rules of the genre, Indigo Prophecy deserves all the acclaim and praise it will be sure to receive in the months and years to come.
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