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For years some video games have attempted to become more and more cinematic through the use of rendered movies, scripted settings and characters. Indigo Prophecy attempts to go a step further, placing you at the center of an interactive story influenced and guided by your choices and actions. From the first menu screen, as you are greeted by a haunting melody from composer Angelo Badalamenti (of Twin Peaks fame) and the option to start a ‘new movie', it's clear that this is a different type of game.
It's best described as an incredibly deep and engaging interactive story wrapped around a series of often frustrating and annoying mini-games. The excellent story and the deep adventure levels carry the experience past the mini-games and leave you wanting to see and know more about the characters after watching the end credits. The interaction with the story allows you to shape each conversation, but the game limits the time to decide on dialogue choices. This forces you to engage the story and characters more directly, which can be disconcerting if you're used to having unlimited time to weigh responses.
Problems with the camera and controls threaten to grind the game to a halt, especially on the PC. Some of the PC control issues are related to the transition from the console versions, such as trying to control movement and Carla's breathing at the same time. Others are more subtle, such as the finicky timing of ‘key capture' during some mini-games. One mini-game is particularly annoying. The Simon games force PC gamers to synchronize the movement of eight fingers through rapid color sequences on two simultaneous color wheels. Also annoying is he inconsistent difficulty of the mini-games. Some trivial activities are nearly impossible, and some critical battles are ridiculously easy. There are whole levels that are essentially cutscenes, but you are required to play a slower version of the Simon mini-game throughout the level. The problem with that approach is that the background colors change enough during these scenes that your attention needs to be focused more on the mini-game than on the story, which is a shame because the story is the best part of the game.
It's clear that the controls are designed for a gamepad. The main problem with the camera is that when the angle changes, so does the controller direction you're pushing. You could be going right then all of a sudden you're going up. Better control schemes avoid this, but Indigo Prophecy doesn't have good control. –These comments by Simon Windmill based on the console version.
While these issues are annoying, they only detract a small bit from the enjoyment of what is otherwise an excellent game. An adventure game with a mystery at its core, you are integral to the adventure and solving the mystery, and responsible for guiding the game to one of several endings. In this core purpose, the game succeeds wonderfully. Most movies don't begin to approach the depth and richness of the story found here—the intricacy of the characters and their inter-relationships—and the effectiveness of the soundtrack and effects.
Continuing the movie analogy, Indigo Prophecy is clearly an R-rated movie, and therefore an M-rated game and not for kids. It starts with the protagonist committing a gruesome murder, and includes further murder, strong sexual content and other themes that mark it as M-rated across the board. But this game is also mature in its storytelling style and characterization. There are three central characters that are presented as deeply layered people, with at least eight other fully realized characters that appear throughout the story.
There is drama and emotion throughout, and the gameplay mechanisms make you feel like a part of every interaction and relationship. The game begins with a bloody scene, but the violence is limited. There is much more suspense and intrigue than violence or horror. There is strong sexual content throughout the game. You can initiate sexual intercourse on three occasions, and witness another occasion. This is fairly sanitized, but since it is not gratuitous, you need to be involved with the context for those interactions. There are issues of morality and mortality, of life and death and relationships, which add weight and seriousness throughout the game.
There are a couple of points in the game where the core strength—the story—falters. There is an action sequence which is challenging (in a good way) and exciting, but seems to be a cobbled-together bunch of ideas from action movies. The scene ends in a story-critical moment that requires a hefty suspension of disbelief. Perhaps it is appropriate that the music was done by the Twin Peaks composer, because like that series this game is ultimately excellent but possesses many completely banal elements and others that simply leave you mystified. Despite this, adventure gamers and fans of engaging stories will appreciate the detailed storytelling that Indigo Prophecy has to offer, and if they can get past the frustration of the mini-games, a very enjoyable experience awaits.
This review edited by Dave Long
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