22/01/2022

๐Ÿ•ต️ Lacuna | XSX | Review | 9.5/10 | "A Perfectly Crafted Sci fi Noir, That Has Bags of Character and Music to Die For" ๐Ÿ•ต️ @digitales_games #GameDev #IndieGames

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I'm going to start this review in a strange way - by telling you that I have tried to write this opening paragraph four times now, and I'm struggling because everything I write sounds like hyperbole. I keep using such strong words that I end up thinking, “do I really think this? Can I love it this much? 

Can I keep writing the words ‘near perfect’ or ‘special’ and truly mean it? When I say, ‘I would put this in my top 10 favourite games of all time’, is this just recency bias or do I genuinely think that this may be one of the most well-crafted games I've ever played?”

The more I've had to rewrite it and reflect on it, I keep thinking, “Yep, I do utterly adore it” and I genuinely think it may be one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had.

This is where I usually outline the plot, but all you really need to know is that you play as Neil Conrad, a grizzled member of the CDI investigating a recent murder, boom, done. 

The less you know the better.

Whilst I won't go through much of the plot, what I will say is the story is fantastic, it grips you from the start and keeps you on edge throughout; it has tension, intrigue, it questions your morality - it is wonderful, a perfect sci-fi noir story that captures the genre perfectly.

Speaking of capturing the genre perfectly, the music is amazing. A pat on the back to whoever composed the soundtrack, it’s brilliant. A combination of traditional jazz, synth and then a gorgeous mix of both. It suits the mood of every location perfectly, ramping up and down at the just-right times, leaning more into synth at times, then switching it over to the more trumpet-based jazz for a true noir feel. I don’t own many soundtracks, but I would 100 per cent buy this soundtrack, fingers are crossed it comes out on vinyl.

Gameplay-wise, the game is again a massive success, it’s how I think most adventure games should be, going forward.  The developer has found a way to cut out a lot of the more tedious aspects of this genre, traversal that is easy - jump on a train and it takes you to where you are going to go, no maps to ponder over, the train always goes to your next destination, so you always know where you need to go. 

You also don’t solve puzzles with items, the menus you use to solve the case are easy to navigate, you have what's called a ‘sheet’ which you use to hand in your information on the case. An example would be - after interviewing all suspects and going through your notes and clues, you pick from three boxes with several different choices on what the perp looks like, his hair, his eyes etc., after then handing in the sheet, you move forward and, based on your reply, there are consequences to wrong conclusions. If you provide the wrong information you can get into bad situations, and the game saves automatically with no restart, so this does create a tense atmosphere as one wrong deduction… and you must live with the consequences. 

Visually it is stunning. The pixel art is very effective, each section of the city is perfectly realised, there are sections where you can just sit, smoke, and enjoy the view and trust me - it is worth taking a few seconds to appreciate the magnificent visual design.  

I usually go into the negatives at this point in the review, and it’s a shortlist. The loading screen does pop up very suddenly and at random times that can seem a bit inappropriate. Yeah, not so much a list, more of a ‘single, mild complaint’. I have also read of players stating that the investigation part of the game is too easy and I understand that, for certain people that would be a problem, but I enjoy the simplicity of it all, I like to be challenged but I'm also happy to breeze through and just enjoy the story.

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