Review: Lucidity

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I only needed ten minutes with Lucidity to see what it was all about. Some games are like that, they put everything they have right out from the get-go and don’t ever push past that foundation. Lucidity certainly starts with plenty of promise in its storybook world and charming presentation. It’s just when you actually get down to playing it that it falters.

The game opens in a quaint little house on a hill, where a little girl lives with her doting grandma. Your wee lass nods off while reading tales of adventure, and dreams of traveling to fantastical faraway lands. This is where the action is, in the dreams of this young lady, and it’s up to you to help her get through her adventure in one adorable piece. And maybe collect some fireflies, too!

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I’m sure that all sounds peachy until you play it. See, Lucidity is one of those platformers where you don’t actually control your character. Sofi (her name is Sofi, I had to look that up) trundles along to the right at a steady clip, only stopping if she literally runs into a wall. Otherwise she’ll happily plunge off a cliff or smack face-first into a dream wasp. There’s no jumping, no ducking, and while we’re on the subject there’s no way to speed up her slow stroll, either.

To help her not toddle into certain death like an idiot, you get to place objects in the world that protect her. These include planks and stairs to walk on, springs and fans to launch her, and bombs that can clear enemies away and take chunks out of solid surfaces. You don’t get to place these freely, though, because each item is chosen for you, one at a time, Tetris-style. You can bank one item for later use but in general you’re going to be working with whatever the game decides to give you at the moment.

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I suppose this could work with some clever level design but that’s the last thing you’re going to get here. Levels are vast expanses of blocky platforms and pits of death and enemies that require some quick thinking when placing objects. Honestly placing objects is always going to require quick thinking, because as slow as Sofi is she doesn’t tend to give you much room to work with on her teeny-tiny platforms hanging in a deadly void. There’s a huge amount of vertical space to explore as well, with elevated areas that you’re only going to get to with a lucky combination of springs and fans anyway.

The end result just isn’t any fun, and it’s dragged even further down by a conspicuous lack of polish. The art style is a flat papier mache style but coupled with the sharp, straight lines that comprise platforms, levels end up looking like cheap vector art. Some of the backgrounds are nice to look at but others feature some terrible and distracting color combinations. The worst offender is your own interface, with flat yellow silhouettes for your objects, and flat blue silhouettes for the ones you place. It seriously looks like placeholder art, lacking any sort of effects or continuity with the world.

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Platformers with indirect control are always a dicey proposition because the threshold for frustration is so much lower. You feel like most of the game is out of your hands, leaving you to simply react to what someone else is doing. Something like Kirby’s Canvas Curse worked wonderfully because you had a huge amount of control over your character and the world around him, just in an indirect manner. That’s not at all the case here, where you can’t even choose how to save Sofi from her own stupidity, you just throw whatever you have at her and hope for the best. Coupled with the unpleasant level design and inconsistent art, Lucidity is more of a nightmare than the dream walk it’s supposed to be.

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