Lux-Pain

Lux-Pain is a tough title to approach. Tough not in the sense that I had relatively high expectations or was personally let down by the title... to be completely honest, Lux-Pain's ambiguous nature may be one of its biggest advantages, as the convoluted story and unintelligible gameplay mechanics are sure to send jaded adventurers running for the hills. No, Lux-Pain is tough to approach because I had no clue what I was getting myself into upon booting this game up. So, now, after hours of wading through poorly translated text and occasionally scratching away at my DS' touch screen like an infected rash, I'm still just as confused as I was after the opening cinematic.

Mind-Numbing

Lux-Pain puts you in the androgynous boots of Atsuki Saijo - a young telepath (of sorts) who uses a magical ring known as a "Lux-Pain" to read minds (kind of) by seeking out tiny worms in the environment and on people known as "Shinen", all in hopes of solving a mysterious suicide case (when you get around to it) and clearing the world of a deadly virus-parasite-thing known as SILENT. Atsuki's part of a secret organization of... well, three or four cosplayers known as FORT, devoted to the obliteration of SILENT, not to mention the progenitor of this deadly worm... leech... thing. So, seeing how SILENT conveniently killed your parents and you just happen to be just a young'n yourself looking for vengeance, you're sent to Kisaragi High School (undercover, of course) in hopes of... picking worms out of peoples' minds, hoping that they don't notice, and generally wasting time walking around town from burger stands to internet cafes.

Are you completely and utterly confused yet? Good -- we're on the same page.

Now, Lux-Pain is a title that I really want to say had potential, but its "Suicide Club" meets "Twin Peaks" meets "X-Men" meets any-number-of-stereotypical-anime-high-school-dramas kinda blew that notion out of the water. The deeper I waded into the group suicide cases, the more confused I became. The more confused I became, the more I went back to FORT to read their archives on events that happened prior to the game for reference. The more research I did, the more I realized that I didn't have the slightest idea as to what was going on in the present, or what my stylus-scratching skills could do to help it. Okay, group suicides = bad -- I got that. Staring at someone intently while you scratch frantically at a cast of cookie-cutter anime characters in hopes of picking mind-worms, the previously-mentioned "Shinen" off of them? Just plain awkward.

Worms on the Brain

While Lux-Pain isn't a terrible game by any means, it's really just more so confusing than anything else. Seriously - I've lost sleep trying to think of adjectives that would somehow describe the interface and/or plot. On that note, please bear with me for the rest of this review as, in all honesty, I'm still not too sure what's going on, what happened while "playing" Lux-Pain, or what hours of damaging my DS' touch screen has accomplished.

As Atsuki, you're given free reign of Kisaragi, and you can call on the folks at FORT at any time to scan the environment for emotional residue. Emotions are represented by different colors - red is anger, blue is sorrow, etc - so from the main map, you decide which location and emotion you want to tackle. From then on, you read a couple of novels' worth of lackluster text met with some surprisingly solid voice acting (for the most part) and when the time strikes, the game just might let you... you know... do something. The Roman numeral "Sigma" will appear on screen, and a timer starts ticking away as you're tasked with scratching the touch-screen like an electronic lotto card in hopes of discovering the worms/Shinen. In what I can only relate to Trauma Center-esque fashion, you then proceed to push down on the worms with your stylus for a good five seconds until they're successfully removed. Upon removal of every on-screen Shinen, you're treated with a "results screen," informing you of how much experience you gained from the amount of Shinen you found and the time it took you to find them. Next up, you... well, you put the Shinen *back into* the person you just picked them from. Each Shinen turns into a small phrase ("Scary Eyes", "Art Lover", etc) - and when this phrase is dragged back onto the character you just removed them from, you "Imprint" them into them, allowing you to read their thoughts via a series of broken words that reads more like a shoddily-written LiveJournal post than a murder mystery.

You still with me? You good? Want some coffee? No? Right, let's continue.

Going back to the voice acting, it's worth noting that a good chunk of it is very well done. At the same time, however, this really makes all of the mistranslations and strange writing (and we're not just talking typos, although there are plenty of those) much more evident. For instance, you can have an entire conversation with a character who will say something resembling the text in their respective dialogue box, but the fact that you're pretty much having two different conversations just adds to the "what?" factor that the game carries so well. This is also matched with the game's spontaneity. Aside from school occurring on a regular basis, you just... go places at the game's whim, often treating you to a small conversation or observation on Atsuki's part, but it really just serves in distancing the player from the game's plot altogether; after all, by this point you're just scrolling through text.

Mind's Eye

I honesly don't know what to say about Lux-Pain. The premise, when paraphrased, is an interesting one and as a huge fan of last year's Time Hollow and any good mystery in general, I'm always willing to sit through any amount of text if it provides a means to an end, or at the very least, something somewhat cohesive. Lux-Pain fails on both accounts, serving as a poorly thrown together, somewhat interactive novel that really doesn't know what it wants to be - or, if it does know, it certainly doesn't want to be a game.

PROS: Solid voice acting; impressive artwork; great box art!
CONS: Confusing story; little to no interactivity; poor translation

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