Developer Quantic Dream's first game Omikron: The Nomad Soul introduced several nuances to the adventure genre, although it ultimately met with mixed reviews. They're back to their innovative ways in their latest title Indigo Prophecy, which attempts to give the adventure genre the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. With fewer and fewer adventure game titles being released every year due to decreasing sales, they are taking a big gamble, but luckily for us, Indigo Prophecy finally brings adventure games into the 21st century. Its fantastic story, intriguing gameplay, and mature themes make for one of the most cinematic and enjoyable experiences ever captured in a video game to date.
In Indigo Prophecy, you will play as three main characters, Lucas Kane, Carla Valenti, and Tyler Miles. The story begins with Lucas Kane brutally murdering a man he does not know in the bathroom of a local diner. He is in some form of trance and cannot control his actions. When the trance ends, you take control and must help solve the mystery of what has happened to him. In an interesting dynamic, you must also control Carla and Tyler, two cops assigned to investigate the murder you just committed, so you get to see the story from two completely different perspectives.
The stage is now set, so how does the game play out? Gone is the point-and-click style of yore in favor of a more console-friendly control scheme. When you approach an item that you can interact with, a toolbar appears at the top of the screen with several options. By pressing up, down, left, or right on the right thumbstick, you can choose one of the available options in the toolbar. This control scheme works very well on a console and helps make the game feel more interactive than any other adventure title to date. This same menu appears whenever you enter a conversation, but here, it becomes even more important. There is a timer that rapidly counts down, forcing you to choose what you say carefully and quickly, which is a welcome addition. Forcing you to choose quickly adds some tension to what would otherwise be a fairly mundane task.
The biggest difference between Indigo Prophecy and any other adventure games is the inclusion of quick time events. Yes I realize this term comes from Shenmue, but it is certainly the most applicable term to the gameplay. Two icons representing the two thumbsticks appear on the screen and flash, indicating the direction you are to push. In the early segments, this happens fairly slowly so it is easy to get used to, but later on, the pace quickens, and one slip-up can really cost you. In addition to the "Simon Says" style events, there are also quickness style events that require you to press the left and right triggers as fast as possible, which can be extremely challenging and wear out your thumbs quickly. Although innovative, that's pretty much all there is in terms of the gameplay department. Some use of the face buttons and the direction pad would have added even more depth to the gameplay and included a deeper challenge level that would be appreciated by the more hardcore gamers.
The graphics in Indigo Prophecy are somewhat of a mixed bag. The character models are passable and have decent textures, but they certainly aren't up to snuff with more recent Xbox titles. The environments do fare better but are largely pre-rendered, something which has gone almost completely extinct in recent years. The animations are really the star of the graphics department; most of the animations are motion captured and look fantastic, and in the (surprisingly numerous) action sequences, you will be treated to some of the best game animations to date.
The art style is to be commended as well. This game really captures the mood of a gritty winter night in New York. While the European influence of the developer's background makes itself known, it doesn't take away from the feel of the city and may even add something intangible to it. The character designs are excellent and unique: Lucas captures the essence of the everyman and comes across as believable in his action roles, and Carla comes across as a tough, capable officer who can get the job done, but she also possesses a vulnerability that makes you care for her. This speaks volumes about the animators' abilities to convey emotion and feeling with relatively little to work with in terms of polygons. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this team can do with a little more money thrown into the art department.
The audio shines in this offering, with the true stand-out being the voice acting. There isn't a single character in Indigo Prophecy that doesn't deliver a rock solid performance. Lucas and Carla leap off the screen at you and tug at your emotions, and Tyler provides the needed comic relief while still delivering a moving performance. While the animations do a lot to bring life to the characters, the acting provides that final push to make the characters really pop. The music is equally enthralling and heightens the emotion at every turn, and the blend of licensed music and original score works perfectly. Composer Angelo Badalamenti lends his cinematic expertise to the score and delivers an experience on the same level as the films he has worked on in the past. The sound effects are spot-on and enhance the already immersive experience.
With all that I have said to praise Indigo Prophecy, you may be thinking it is without flaw. While it is a fantastic title, it does have a few problems, mainly its length, which clocks in at a mere seven hours. There are multiple endings and multiple story branches to alleviate this shortcoming, but each playthrough is shorter, and some elements will be repeated. The second problem is minor and maybe I'm the only one that cares, but the bonus content is too easy to unlock. Numerous bonus features cost you points, which can be found throughout the game, and you can spend these points anytime you exit to the main menu. The problem is that you can easily unlock all of them with one playthrough. For a title that entices you to play through it multiple times to get all of the story elements, at least two playthroughs should have been required to unlock all of the content.
Overall, Indigo Prophecy is the most enjoyable gaming experience I've had this year. The story was one of the best ever, and the acting is top-notch. The art style was truly unique, with some action sequences rivaling those of big-budget action titles. No other adventure game in the last five years has come close to Indigo Prophecy in terms of genre advancement. This title is critical for the genre's survival, and anyone who is or ever was a fan of the adventure genre owes it to him/herself to pick up this one. With the exception of Dreamfall, Indigo Prophecy may be the last great adventure game we ever see.
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