Review: Lucie

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Dramatic twists can be amazing additions to any story, but they can’t be the entire story. Predicating your entire tale on an unexpected reversal threatens to sap the vitality from your characters and other plot beats, which is why they’re often avoided or discouraged. Lucie is a prime example of this phenomenon, a game that leans so heavily on its eventual twist that it seemingly forgets to develop the actual plot at all. What you’re left with is a jumble of creepy scenes and stiff enemies ushering you on to an ultimately disappointing reveal that makes you question what you just spent your last hour on.

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Presumably you play as Lucie, a young lass who finds herself in an extremely not-right mansion. The creaking floorboards and peeling paint hide terrible creatures who want nothing but the worst for her, and indeed the entire place proves to be one big deathtrap. Only by following the guidance of the dream diaries she finds can Lucie make her way to her goal and maybe find a way out of this nightmare world. The logic of the place makes it hard to know when she’s safe and who she can trust, so death will be her constant companion on this dark journey.

I’m not kidding about that last part, either. Early on, you’re tasked with finding a snack for someone. There are two boxes you can search, one is visibly moving, and if you try to open it the game double-checks to see if that’s a good idea. Of course you’ll be viciously impaled if you open it, and that’s the game being nice to you. From that point on, every time you interact with something there’s a chance it’s going to decapitate you, incinerate you, crush you into jelly, or worse. There’s only the loosest logic to these instant death options, and only a proliferation of save points to keep them from getting too annoying to stomach.

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The other issue with Lucie is that, for its entire hour-long runtime, you’re not going to have a clue about what’s going on. The game starts you off right in the thick of things, with no proper introduction to anything and no real direction to follow. You proceed through the halls and chambers because they’re there, not because you have any reason to besides escape. At the very end of the game you get the big twist, which feels like a thin substitute for a story and may actually inspire more questions than it answers. Even now I’m pretty unclear on what happened or why I should care, and that’s after beating the thing in one sitting.

I know there are good RPGMaker horror games out there, but this isn’t one of them. In terms of horror it deals too heavily in attempted jumpscares, sending shadowy creatures skittering around now and then. These sequences come too frequently, and suffer from some presentation issues that sap them of their power to terrify. The graphics and sounds are only competent, and if you’ve played any amount of indie horror games before you’ll recognize more than a few of the encounters. Lucie ends up feeling like a passion project, a singular vision to build a game around one twist that leaves out too many other aspects of design to enjoy.

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