It's been an extremely long time since we've seen a game from LucasArts that doesn't feature Star Wars in the title, and even longer since we've seen a completely original IP from them. Lucidity is a unique offering from the company that hearkens back to their days of adventure and puzzle games. Lucidity is best described as a combination platformer and puzzle game, very much akin to Lemmings. At the same time, it is also something wholeheartedly unique and different that is clearly following the inspiration of the cult arcade hit, Braid. It doesn't shoehorn neatly into any established genre, instead carving out a little niche of its own.
The premise of Lucidity is that you're following a young girl named Sofi as she wanders through treacherous dream lands, guided by the words of her grandmother and her own courage. When I say "following," I mean exactly that because you don't control Sofi at all. Lucidity takes a page from the classic game Lemmings in that Sofi wanders forward without hesitation and regardless of the danger before her. She may climb small walls or push against objects, but that is the limit of her abilities, and you can't interact with Sofi in a direct way.
Your ability to interact with the world comes in the form of objects that you can create anywhere on-screen. These objects take the shape various tools and gadgets, which Sofi will interact with if she comes across one. Creating a fan, for example, will cause her to be blown upward in the air, and even through walls. A trampoline will send her hopping over a pit. A large plank of wood can be used to form a bridge over gaps or stop Sofi when she's falling in mid-air. There are even objects you can use to alter the environment. One of your methods for destroying enemies is a bomb, which can be detonated anywhere. If you detonate a bomb on an enemy, it'll not only kill him, but it may also alter the landscape around it. You can use the bomb's same landscape-altering abilities to make holes for Sofi to climb through or give her a small "boost" into the air. There are a number of abilities you can use, and each one serves a distinct purpose.
However, you can't use these objects at will. Lucidity gives you access to one item at a time, which is usually randomly generated. When you use the item, the next item is made available, and this continues until you reach the end of the level. You have little control over the item selection, although there are a few ways around this. You can keep placing items out of the way until you get the item you want, but as the game progresses, you'll find that you're on a stricter time limit as Sofi's world gets more dangerous and she loses the ability to walk around unharmed. At that point, you're encouraged to find the best possible use for all items so you're not spending precious time trying to find the best one. You also have the ability to hold one item at a time, which places the item in a small box, which can be used at any time in place of the currently chosen item. If you get a particularly useful gadget, it's best to hold it until you need it instead of wasting it. All in all, it's very similar to some versions of Tetris, where you hold a block on the sidelines until you're ready to use it.
Each level in Lucidity is designed to be winnable in an almost infinite number of ways. Your only real goal in the levels is to get Sofi from the beginning to the end. The paths that she can traverse are multi-tiered, and you'll be able to go through each level in multiple ways. One level may have you using trampolines and slingshots to move high above the ground, but the next time playing through, you'll use bombs, wooden planks and brute force to create a path for Sofi through the lower half of the level. Depending on the items in your randomly generated collection, you'll find countless ways through the stage. In my time playing, I rarely encountered a situation where it felt impossible to continue, and I only felt that way because I was still unlocking new items to use. Once you've got a solid stable of objects to create, moving Sofi around the stage is extremely fun. You have to be quick on your toes, however, since the stages grow more dangerous as the game progresses. Early stages are quite forgiving and friendly, but the later stages of the game can be rather cruel. Sofi dreams of a dangerous world, and there is a lot that can do her harm.
Lucidity is filled with pitfalls and traps. If Sofi comes in contact with a dangerous object, she'll take damage. However, you can replenish your health by collecting fireflies, which are the game's primary collectible. One firefly will instantly restore Sofi to full health. It's best to not rely on this overly much; your overall goal should be to keep Sofi away from danger. There are certain situations where Sofi is doomed from your first mistake: If she falls into a bottomless pit or a hole filled with spikes, the game is over. There are other creepier, instant deaths that become possible as the game progresses, so players should be cautious because no amount of fireflies in the world can save her from this. Fortunately, death in Lucidity is fairly lenient. Sofi can survive being damaged only once, so if you sustain a second hit, the game is over, and you are sent back to the start of the stage, minus any fireflies you've collected.
Your goal in every stage, beyond simply reaching the end, is getting the fireflies in the stage. Each stage has at least 50 fireflies scattered throughout, and all Sofi has to do to collect one is touch them. It's not as easy as it sounds, though, because fireflies are located all over the stages, and in many cases, you won't be able to get them all on your first try. Sometimes they'll be hovering over pits or trapped inside walls that you have to bomb your way through. Some are on even on different paths, which means that you can't possibly get every firefly on your first trip through a level. You'll have to replay levels multiple times, using different paths, in order to find all of them. Collecting fireflies has a benefit beyond just the obvious Achievements; it actually opens up bonus stages in the game, making them a vital task for people who are trying to get everything out of the game.
Lucidity is a strikingly beautiful and haunting game. The entire world looks like something out of an old-fashioned storybook. The designs and the world are cheerful and vaguely ominous at the same time. There is nothing immediately noteworthy about the monsters, which appear to be slightly off versions of snails, frogs and other animals. Something about them is slightly creepy and off-putting, which works wonders when contrasted with the cheerful surroundings. As the game progresses, the light-hearted world steadily grows darker and more dangerous, with spikes and monsters appearing more often, and the entire world growing grimmer and less friendly. By the second world, where Sofi is being chased by a tide of blackness that slowly engulfs the screen, you'll find that the lighthearted game has become quite creepy. This is aided by the haunting music track, which uses extremely calm background music to set the mood. There are no words and few sounds, and the ones that do exist are put to great effect. The chilling gong as Sofi meets an untimely demise is somehow more disturbing than something violent or gory would be.Lucidity is a shockingly addictive game. The randomly generated nature of the items makes replaying stages exciting and interesting because there isn't a single set solution. Whether you're simply trying to reach the end of the stage or replaying to collect fireflies, the game encourages you to be creative and tricky. Yet what really makes Lucidity stand out is its amazing atmosphere. The simple storybook graphics lull you into a sense of security that is slowly stripped away as the dream world descends into nightmare. Despite being such a friendly looking game, there is something ominous about the way the landscape and music slowly fall into darkness. It isn't a horror game, but the atmosphere and mood make it far more striking and memorable than any Resident Evil could hope to be. If you're a fan of interesting puzzle games or simply one who wants to support the idea of "games as art", Lucidity will be a must-play when it hits the Xbox Live Arcade later this month.
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