LucasArts' out-of-left-field Lucidity forgoes the publisher's usual reliance on the Force and fedoras in favor of a little girl who loves her Nana.
As Sofi, players are unleashed into a storybook-like, side-scrolling dream-scape evocative of the worlds created by Tim Burton.
Despite Sofi being the main character, players don't actually control her; instead, they protect her by placing objects in her path, ensuring she safely makes it from one end of a level to the other. As Sofi self-propels along, she's faced with pitfalls, traps and creatures that can send her back to the beginning of the level. Players place items such as staircases, blocks and trampoline-shoes to help her overcome obstacles and reach her destination. The objects appear randomly in a Tetris-like fashion, testing gamers reflexes as well as their brains, as they race to find the right piece and place it in front of Sofi, lest she land face first in a spiky pit.
Anyone who spies even a single screenshot of this easy-on-the-eyes offering will be hard pressed to escape its visual charms. However, once in Sofi's world, players might find the actual gameplay to be more a nightmare than a dream.
Storybook Come to Life: Each one of Lucidity's 40+ levels is a visual treat. Oozing charming atmosphere, they should appeal to anyone who digs the colorful-and often creepy-worlds created by Tim Burton and the like. In fact, it's impossible to watch Sofi skip through her imaginary world and not recall Henry Selick's recent cinematic re-imagining of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. From the lighter palette that begins the game, to the more foreboding tones coloring the later levels, it's always easy to appreciate the developer's visually-driven storytelling style.
Cool Concept: Rather than create a Super Mario Bros. ripoff in this pretty world, LucasArts' unique approach puts a fresh coat of paint on platformers. The idea of not actually controlling the character, but rather her fate, by placing objects in her path is packed with potential. And the actual items used to guide Sofi further speak to the creative passion behind the project; whether you're shooting Sofi with a slingshot or simply placing a make-shift bridge in her path, it's super satisfying to see her not step towards danger because you've altered her path.
Frustration Trumps Fun: Despite a fantastic idea and appealing visuals, Lucidity (and ultimately Sofi) stumbles hard due to unforgivably poor execution. Beyond the first dozen or so levels, the game becomes an exercise in frustration, as you scramble to keep up with Sofi and find the right pieces to ensure her safe passage. There's too much going on-obstacles, traps, enemies-in the later levels, making it nearly impossible to complete them, never mind take the scenic route to chase collectible fireflies which add life and open bonus levels. Additionally, the slippery controls don't accurately "snap" objects into place, so, as Sofi marches towards a poisonous frog, you're left to wonder if your staircase is maybe a little too far left or right. Of course, you soon get your answer when the menacing amphibian sends little Sofi packing to the level's starting point. Which speaks to the next infuriating factor: How about some damn mid-mission checkpoints?! Sadly, by the time you successfully get Sofi from point A to B, you'll be more relieved than satisfied.
Touchy controls, loose level design, and a lack of useful items when you need them, make Lucidity, despite its potential and beautifully engaging presentation, far more frustrating than fun. I went into this promising title with brimming enthusiasm, but by the end, too many laps on the trial-and-error treadmill had broken my spirit.
Lucidity was developed by LucasArts and published by LucasArts for XBLA and PC on October 7th. Retails for 800 Microsoft points, or $10. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed Xbox 360 version of the game on normal difficulty.
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