Looksley's Line Up Micro-Review: Broken Promise

When we first saw the pseudo-3D wonder of Nintendo's hidden object game Looksley's Line Up in action, we wondered why we'd ever need a Nintendo 3DS. Now we know.

Looksley's Line Up is a hidden object puzzle game that works by showing you various scenes presented in a perspective-altering sort of pseudo 3D. While looking at a dance scene, for instance, turning the Nintendo DSi in your hand the right way might reveal the shape of a cat or grasshopper. It's up to the player, guided by a rotund white rabbit, to travel through multiple scenes, uncovering hidden objects and words that help unlock the secrets of the game world.

By now you've seen the videos, and drooled over the magical 3D motion of the screen, but how does Looksley's Line Up really work? Seldom.

Loved
Pretty Neat, When It Works: Puzzles are a passion of mine, and I've long admired the amount of work that goes into creating a good perspective-based puzzle. To make a new image appear by simply changing the player's viewpoint takes delicate orchestration. To add moving figures to the mix, as Looksley's often does, is an impressive juggling act. When the game is at its best, images pop from the screen and disappear with a simple turn of your wrist, and the illusion of 3D is simply sublime. Unfortunately...

Hated
It Doesn't Work Often: Looksley's Line Up performs its magic by taking a picture of you and then tracking the movement of your face in order to shift your perception of the scene before you. This requires you wear clothes that clash with your skin and (if applicable) facial hair, while photographing yourself against a similarly clashing backdrop. I wandered all over my apartment trying to find a good spot to take said picture, eventually finding the perfect light by laying down on my couch, facing a window. The game worked flawlessly for the first level, but soon the light coming through my window changed, and it became erratic and then unresponsive. This also happens when you start playing in one place, then move to another. You have to recalibrate the camera, hoping your new location has the right combination of light and background to make the game work. Generally it doesn't, which means that once you find that one perfect spot to play, you're stuck there. Forget walking around playing, or running the game while in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle.

Dammit, Why Doesn't It Work?: The frustration that arises from Looksley's Line Up not working is tremendous. It's not simply because the game doesn't work. That would be easy; put the game down and move on. No, the frustration comes from how badly I want it to work. I can almost see the letters I need to uncover, but the camera just won't let me get there. It's a feeling like you're about to sneeze, but it never happens, leaving you unfulfilled and supremely disappointed. Looksley's has made me feel like that again and again today, on top of this tension headache it's given me. Damn you, Looksley!

If Looksley's Line Up worked on a consistent basis it would easily be at the top of my list of must-have DSiWare titles. It's got charming music, a great sense of style, and a gimmick that, when it works, does tend to blow minds, just as Nintendo promised. The problem is it doesn't work on a regular basis, which turns what could have been a showcase title into an application that highlights the flaws of the platform rather than its strengths.

As Stephen Totilo suggested to me, perhaps Looksley's Line Up works best as a justification for Nintendo's upcoming 3D-enabled handheld, the Nintendo 3DS. If this new hardware can take a game like Looksley's and make it work, consider me sold.

Looksley's Line Up was published by Nintendo for DSiWare on May 17. Retails for 500 DSi Points ($5.00). DSi points provided by the publisher were used to purchase and download this title. Played through many of the game's worlds in multiple lighting conditions.

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