Thursday, September 25, 2008

Indigo Prophecy (Xbox)

Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit, in EUR)

2005; Quantic Dream

Since the 90s, genres in video games made the transition from distinct experiences into modern game terminology. Oblivion could be described as a RPG with an FPS fighting system and viewpoint. Metroid Prime became a FPS with many exploration and platforming elements. Sure there are still cut-and-dried games that stay true to their genre, but we often throw insults at them, claiming they are "retro" or "too safe for their own good". Splicing a genre into another is an essential of inventive game design in the 00s. With all this said, it still baffles me how they attach the adventure genre to games like Tomb Raider or Mass Effect (games I do love, mind you)--implying that the adventure genre can be distilled into finding the red key or choosing different lines of dialogue. The adventure genre is the one genre that can't really capture the same essence when spliced with others. So, I have to congratulate Quantic Dream for finding a way to reintroduce the genre to the adventure-deprived of the past decade with Indigo Prophecy.

At the start of the game, you take the role of Lucas Kane, a man gone stab happy after some supernatural force takes over him ("You want to enter the women's restroom....HEH"). One of the game's best mechanics is introduced in this tense intro, as you have to find out what to hide what where before a cop enters the cafe's restroom you are in. Its a segment that will pop-up in similiar forms later in the game, along with a Simon says and trigger endurance segments (more on those later). Not more than 10 minutes later, you'll take the role of Carla and Tyler: two detectives at the scene of the murder Lucas just committed. The rest of the game is told through the perspective of these 3 characters, each with their own unique story and viewpoint. From Final Fantasy VI to Halo 2, we've played games that have introduced the idea of changing characters and seeing things from a different perspective but Indigo Prophecy might be the best example of this yet. From the first moment as the cops at the cafe to being Lucas at the game's end, these novel transitions keep the storytelling varied and compelling.Indigo Prophecy is at its best in the opening 3 hours, as it introduces its elementary gameplay segments and gripping story that feels like The Matrix meets Se7en (with the writing of CSI--did I kill your anticipation?) You would hardly call them minigames or features, but most of the action sections of Indigo are played through a Quick Time Event (think Shenmue) or endurance tests where you press the L and R triggers as fast as you can while you watch the character bench press or throw an enemy across the room. These parts are obviously 2nd to a true combat system, but, for a game with a mission to keep the player always connected to the action on screen, it's better then just watching a cutscene with no player input. In addition to these parts, there is also conversation which requires the player to move the thumb-stick to the right choice in time. Like so many other elements of Indigo Prophecy, it's a little detail that evokes what the character on screen is feeling within the player. In life, you can't sit on your ass and think over what clever thing to say next--you need to reply quick and subsequent to your friend. Even better are the moments of Indigo Prophecy that evoke the same fear or tension your character is feeling. Call it false interaction to make the player stressed over a QTE segment while the character is running through a parking lot, but it edges the player one step closer to the character than any other medium could.

The main faults of Indigo Prophecy are the gripes one could have with any game: the story is more Hollywood cliche then best seller, the gameplay grows a bit stale, and there are some misguided stages (the obligatory stealth segment of 04' says hi!) Indigo Prophecy might piss off Lucasarts adventure game fans for its disregard to genre staples, but Quantic Dream offer the true evolution of the genre. It captures the intimacy, exploration, and reward that only adventure games of the 90s offered. The game becomes a clusterfuck of gaps in storytelling and faulty logic, but you feel so invested in the characters because you were just as scared as they were when going in the creepy bird lady's house and just as flustered when Carla has to deal with her claustrophobia in the police department's basement. The story might end up being forgettable, but there are so many parts of the game that will stick with you. All of which are begging Quantic Dream to refine and weave a masterful story around, in the future. Hopefully it will ring louder then the temptation to make a RPG/Action/Adventure (my ass) sequel.