Sometimes a game will come along that takes everybody by storm, a game that fails to fit into the neat little niches that the stores and the publishers would like it to. Sometimes, a game comes along that’s just so different that it immediately gets attention. With all of the early buzz, it seems that Indigo Prophecy may be that game.
Indigo Prophecy is the brainchild of David Cage, a man who basically created his own game company, Quantic Dream, and spent ten years trying to create the game that he wanted to create. His goal wasn’t so much to create a game as to transform the genre into something closer to artwork. He wanted his game to convey emotion and also show that there are indeed different ways to create games than what is currently considered to be feasible. The question is…did he succeed?
First off I want to say that the graphics themselves aren’t that great. They’re a bit fuzzy at times, the characters aren’t as detailed as some of the newest titles are. To be honest though, it dosen’t matter one bit. The graphical style of the characters, the areas and the backgrounds all serve to make a point as well as to set the mood of the game. It’s almost, but not quite, portrayed in a film noir style.
That being said, the reason this game gets the score it does in this category is because of the presentation. Quantic Dream has gone out of their way to create a game that presents itself as if it were a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Scenes blend together, you get split-screen scenes akin to the television show “24” and you can change both the position of the camera in relation to your character as well as the perspective of the camera. One of the things this accomplishes is to improve the immersiveness. You’re playing a game, yes, but it’s also somewhat like being involved in how a movie is playing out.
While the characters may not be highly detailed, it is possible to see the characters expressing various emotions. The facial expressions are quite well done, as is the body language, and it’s obvious that Quantic Dream really had the right idea in how they went about things as far as the presentation and graphical style involved in Indigo Prophecy. It’s a very good use of motion capture, to be honest, and many other companies can take notes from this for their own games.
If you’re going for an experience that’s supposed to be immersive and impact the player emotionally, the music and sound is key. Indigo Prophecy succeeds wonderfully here as the music shifts along with the mood of each scene, with a score provided by Angelo Badalamenti, who has worked on a number of movies and television shows, including “Twin Peaks”, “Mulholland Drive” and the upcoming “Dark Water.” The score is haunting and even downright creepy at times. Further music is handled by Normand Corbeil and Farid Russlan. Beyond the score, there’s also a number of licensed songs in the game from Theory of a Deadman, Teddy Pendergrass, Ben E. King and others. Again, the music sets the mood and brings the player more into the game itself.
The voice acting in the game is also quite spectacular with emotions easily being displayed. While the lip-syncing isn’t perfect, and it isn’t expected to be in a game that was also released in Europe, it’s close enough for it to make very little difference in enjoying the game. The actors make the lines sound natural and flowing, again, just as if this were a movie instead of a game.
The one issue with the sound is with bathrooms more than anything else. It seems that no matter how big the bathroom you’re in, the toilets, sinks and dryers all echo as though you were in a small, bare concrete room. It’s mildly annoying, but not really worth worrying about for long.
The controls in Indigo Prophecy are honestly quite simple. The left analog stick moves the character about, the L1 and R1 buttons are used to switch the camera position as well as in certain minigames and the right analog stick is used to perform context-sensitive actions as well as swing the camera. The X button runs, O displays mental health (which is an interesting feature) while R2 displays a first-person view, Select opens a PDA, and L2 resets the camera. Start pauses the game.
During certain action-based minigames, you will also use both analog sticks to respond to cues on the screen much like Simon or DDR (although the colors do seem to resemble Simon more than anything). The sticks feel mostly comfortable for this purpose, although it’s possible to slip from time to time. Luckily, for the most part, the game is quite forgiving on normal difficulty.
The one major issue with the controls of this game is in the movement. As the areas aren’t always big and the camera shifts position as you move around an area, sometimes it can cause confusion with which direction on the stick will move your character the way you want to go. This can get extremely frustrating when you’re under a time-limit, which happens twice early in the game. If it were slightly more intiuitive in this case, the rating for this section would have been drastically higher.
Indigo Prophecy is the story of three different characters. The ‘main’ character, Lucas Kane, has just witnessed an unspeakable act: the cold-blooded murder of a man in the bathroom of a New York City diner. The problem? Lucas is the killer. He’s not quite sure how he got into the bathroom or why he killed the man. All he knows is that he was having visions of a second place with a lot of candles as he was killing the other man, and the face of a young girl, beckoning for help. Strange, of course, but there you go. So your goal as Lucas is to find out what happened before the police find and arrest you or the gravity of the situation presses down upon you until you simply lose your mind.
Movies always show the action from different perspectives, from different characters’ viewpoints, and Indigo Prophecy is no different. There’s Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, NYPD detectives who answer the call to investigate this murder. They know something isn’t quite right, and they are trying to not only discover what’s going on, but are also trying to find out who did it and capture them. Of course, they don’t know the identity of the killer…yet.
The game switches back between each of the characters, and since the two police officers are usually together, you can also switch between the two while at the same scene. Each character has a distinct personality with quirks, fears, desires, and goals. There is a fair amount of side-story for each of the characters through the game, from a bet that Tyler makes to be settled through a game of basketball, Carla dealing with a bout of claustrophobia, or Lucas dealing with his ex-girlfriend one night. Again, this serves to bring the player further into the game. It’s less that you’re playing a game as one character trying to win a mission and more that you’re taking part in these people’s lives, helping them to achieve their various goals. It’s almost like playing a movie, and it’s very engrossing.
One thing must be brought up here. Indigo Prophecy is a M-rated game. Many games with this rating are generally rated M for language, sexual innuendo, or extreme violence. There’s really not much reason outside of that. One of the nice things about this game is that the game not only earns its M rating, it flawlessly manages to define what the M rating itself is all about. This game is filled with plot and everything that makes the game mature works with that. There’s blood and violence, considering that the main character is a murderer and the game begins with the murder. There’s no gratituous violence beyond that; Lucas Kane dosen’t even own a gun! There’s partial nudity and sexual themes, but nothing that’s beyond anything in any R-rated movie. In fact, there were a number of sex scenes that were rumored to be no racier than anything in, say, Sin City, and actually dealt with the plot as well. Of course, nothing is really missed by having them out, but the point is still made. Comparing Indigo Prophecy with a game such as 187: Ride or Die or Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball is akin to comparing Braveheart or Passion of the Christ to, say, Wedding Crashers. This, folks, is what the M rating was designed for. And the game is absolutely brilliant.
Normally this section deals with replayability, and if a game isn’t really worth replaying or isn’t worth the money spent on it, it gets a low score here. There are three major endings in Indigo Prophecy as well as numerous endings dealing with consequences of specific actions, all of which are generally bad. Since the game clocks in at about 12 to 15 hours, the ability to replay the game those extra times definitely helps. Bonus content is also included as you can pick up bonus points here and there and use them to unlock content outside of the main game.
Throw all of that away, however, and there’s still the fact that this game is worth every penny of the $40 it currently retails for. So if you take the fact that it’s honestly worth the money and add in the replayability and the bonus content, as well as the idea of playing it in a group for the movie experience, you’ve got an extremely good value here.