Indigo Prophecy: A True "Cinematic Game"
Indigo Prophecy is a game that not all gamers can agree upon is a definitively good game. It defies the convention set by most other games before it. It's not an action game of any sort. It isn't an RPG with spiky-haired people. Nor is it anything else that can be classified under typical gaming standards. Instead, Indigo Prophecy serves its contents as a game for the gamers who prefer being compelled over being addicted by providing numerous unorthodox things that combine to be a unique package that hasn't ever been conceived nor will ever likely be conceived again soon.
The game is essentially like an interactive movie where one can affect the various nuances of the plot on a level that is exponentially greater than what most games allow. It starts off this trend by placing you in the shoes of Lucas Kane, a man who has committed a murder that he feels was against his own willpower. As it happened to take place in a restaurant's restroom, Lucas is not alone when his actions have taken place. As the body lies before him, he needs to figure out what to do quickly so he can leave the vicinity and thusly begin his journey of contemplation.
It's at this point where the game puts Lucas' fate in the player's hands. The restroom and its inhabitants have business to take care of, and it's up to the player to determine how it's conducted. Many choices present themselves already at this point in the game. The game provides some ideas about what to do to get past this point in the plot, but leaves the rest up to the gamer. If they choose, they can leave the crime scene early, taking care of only the essentials to allow for a quick getaway and not seem too obvious around other people. Or, they could decide to put a little more effort into covering up the evidence, making it harder for Lucas to be tracked down by investigators. What one chooses to do at many points like this in the game can have effects on how future events play out, even ones in a very immediate future.
One doesn't just control Lucas Kane over the course of Indigo Prophecy's story, though. They'll also be playing as other characters, mainly those on the other side of the spectrum from Lucas: the investigators. Two people, Tyler and Carla, are tasked with figuring out the killer at the restaurant and their motive. They do so in the typical ways one would expect from investigators, from searching for clues to interviewing witnesses to even creating a mug shot (with your help). How good of a job they do, like with Lucas, is up to you. You could choose to have them pick up every hint of Lucas at every chance. Or, you could let them overlook a few things and see what turns the investigations take from there. Their competency is up to you.
The whole time you're controlling the main characters in the game, you're doing so in a rather unusual way. The control scheme in this game isn't overly convoluted, like in many others. Instead, they usually rely on the two analogue sticks and the two shoulder buttons. That's it. Just four parts on the controller do everything you need to do. It may sound odd at first, but it really does work. While the left analog stick is used to move the characters around (albeit rather sluggishly, no thanks to the camera), the right analogue stick is used for doing all of the characters' actions. (The camera is controlled with the left and right trigger buttons, although the right analog stick can also be used for viewing things at odd angles.) If they're pushing a door open, one will do so by pushing upward on the right analog stick. If they're trying to climb something, the player will mimic the way the arms move by having the analog stick swing to the side and over to climb the object. All of these actions, among many others, are mapped to the right analog stick in an effort to make things somewhat intuitive, which is enhanced when the game asks the player to take their time doing these actions, ensuring that it is the course they want to take. If one does the action too quickly, the game will think the player has decided against doing the action. But if they take the time to do it at a more proper pace, then the character will obey and the action will be done.
But the right analog stick isn't just used for actions. It's also used during the numerous conversations that are to be had in the game. During the times when a main character is talking to someone else, various responses will show up with a time limit. It's up to the player to choose what to say for the next part of the talk. The decision is once again made with the right analog stick by tilting it in the way the response indicates. The choices in such situations can range from things such as what mood to take on for the next response to what question one feels needs the most attention next. The plot may not be overly affected by many (not all) of these choices other than what happens immediately after the choice is made. However, subtleties do lie in the game that can come as a result of the things that happened during the talk, which can be interesting to pick up if you remember such things.
There's a little bit more to the gameply after considering these things, but not too much. In fact, there's really only two more notable facets to the gameplay in Indigo Prophecy that should be noted. One that shows up involves the analog sticks yet again, prompting you to move both of them during specific sequences in the game. The times these show up can be as dramatic as some of the games action sequences to as modest as a line of questions from police. Failing to move the analog sticks the way the game tells you can have major consequences, sometimes death. However, that likely won't happen often, as these sequences are easy enough to tackle, even at a faster rate, thanks to the fact that the game conveys these commands in a non-obtrusive way on the screen. (This also allows one to get a good view of what's happening while one is participating in it.)
The other major facet of Indigo Prophecy's gameplay involves the left and right trigger buttons. At times, Lucas (or another character) will have to exert some major physical energy to get these things done. Usually, this involves heaving something heavy, but other physically demanding times use this facet as well. During those times, the player has to button mash the trigger buttons to keep the character working hard to accomplish the task at hand. While this is an interesting way to get the player to feel some endurance that the character may be having, this can be tiring on the fingers during a few times that do this, as there is at least one time where it is truly excessive when this part of the gameplay shows up. But nevertheless, it's still yet another way that the game is successfully compelling during the course of its story.
There's also a “sanity meter” that shows up during the gameplay. It functions like a health meter would in other games, where if it bottoms out, the character dies. However, this meter takes on mental, not physical, health for this meter. Thus, the way the meter is influenced is by the reactions the characters have to certain events. If a character gets into an argument with someone, then it can lessen. But if something good happens, then the meter will raise. Beyond the dying thing, though, this meter has virtually no influence on the game. No matter what mental state a character may be in, they'll still act the same way. This is rather odd, as one would expect that perhaps the dialog would change with one's mental state. But instead, the characters just always act the same no matter what. Even if they're depressed, they won't show it unless the plot automatically calls for it.
The entire ride, though, is a rather short one. The game can be completed within six to eight hours. For some, that may or may not justify the price tag that may have been paid for the game. But the plot of the game (even if it does indeed go freaky towards the end of the game) makes it well worth it. As such, since the game is so short, it's recommended that, if one has the time to do so, to just go and play the game in one sitting. It is indeed very much like a movie in that regard, where interrupting the plot before it's over can degrade the experience a tad. It's not meant to be put on hold for long, as Indigo Prophecy is presented in a way that is just meant to be experienced from start to finish, even the amount of time it takes is essentially as long as watching an extended edition of one of Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” movies twice.
The presentation of the rest of the game beyond its plot is somewhat modest. The visuals are certainly not eye candy in any way at all. The models for all of the characters are decent, as are their motion-captured animation. But everything in the game in the game that there is to see is on par with what one would expect a game's graphics to be at minimum these days (although by no means are the game's graphics bad).
The sounds of the game are kind of there, per se. Some things, like footsteps, are really hard to pick up, which can deceive one into thinking that Quantic Dream just didn't put the effort into making the sound in the first place. But the other sounds come out just fine, with everything else sounding the way it should when the sound pops up.
All of the characters in the game do speak, however. The voice actors do an O.K. Job at projecting the lines they're given. They give the characters emotion when the time calls for it and they do make the characters seem believable enough (even if the corresponding lip-syncing is usually bad). However, even if the game is meant to be like an interactive movie, the voice acting doesn't quite reach the quality of movies themselves. It seems as though the game tries to do its best in that regard, but was only able to do so with B-list quality voices.
The music in the game is a hit-or-miss at most times. While many of the classical music pieces that show up in the game do a superb job at helping create the mood of the game, other pieces of music usually do a less-than-stellar job. The game licenses music from several artists, but usually does little with them over the course of the main game. One can listen to them during times where a character has free time, but the music isn't that good enough to really justify listening to multiple. The only real low point in the music is most likely when one has to listen to Tyler's bizarre funk theme song, which just appears to be out of place every time it comes up and just sounds bad overall.
Indigo Prophecy is certainly not a game for all gamers. It has a pacing that many are unaccustomed to, as well as a story to back up that pacing. There are also a few things that can be griped about in general about the game, which could turn some people away. However, the experience to be had with the game, despite a few hindrances, may well be worth it, even if it is for only a short time. But during that time, those who are open enough will discover a unique game with experiences that aren't to be found anywhere else. Truly, this game is an obscure gem in all ways.