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Xbox Review: Indigo Prophecy

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To say Indigo Prophecy is one of the strangest games you’ll play this generation isn’t a statement that far off base. What little control the player has over the characters is awful because of the camera, yet the concept is so engrossing and so unique, it’s a new achievement in video game storytelling. It’s a shame it loses focus towards the end and spirals downward rapidly, but it’s worth fighting through the quirks to experience all it has to offer.

Controlling both a murderer and the investigators trying to track him down, this completely new approach is a fantastic concept. As the killer Lucas Kane, you try to unravel why you killed an innocent man in a restaurant bathroom completely against your will. As the police on his trail, you’ll need to figure out which clues are important to continue, but not discover too much so they find Lucas quickly.

This is done through a simple interface that doesn’t use any of the face buttons (other than A for running). The analog sticks do most of the work, providing options and actions to perform where appropriate. It works much like a classic point-and-click adventure, only one where you can control the walking and maneuvering of the characters.

That, along with the story, are a few of the game’s pitfalls. The constantly swinging camera switches the controls with every movement, and there’s no way to know how it’s going to affect you on screen. This leads to some frustrating segments where death is inevitable, and not because of the difficulty.

The Xbox controller brings a unique challenge with its shoulder buttons. Certain actions require the player to rapidly press the L and R triggers to escape deadly situations, and to say this is painful, both literally and figuratively, isn’t stretching the truth. These segments would have worked just fine on any of the buttons, and for as strong as these triggers are, it’s unacceptable not to offer any other control configurations.

Some of the challenges are ridiculous too, especially as it makes trying to find a file on a previous murder into a tense situation. Other times you’ll need to use both analog sticks just to pass a simple conversation. You never feel like you’re actually doing something other than busywork.

As the game goes on, the story begins to degrade too. Things begin to unravel rapidly, and the absurdity of it all contradicts the seriousness of the story elsewhere. This would have made an incredible CSI-styled murder mystery, but it unfortunately goes off in its own dealings with the occult and any sense of realism or logic is lost.

Even with the aggravations, Indigo Prophecy is a new style of video game. It’s bravely adult, even if it has been toned down from the European release (more appropriately titled Fahrenheit). It’s not just about blood and sex. The story and its characters relate to the adult mindset, and not one set up for 12-year olds. It’s Mature in the truest sense, not just immature. It’s a true interactive movie, not the full motion junk gamers were forced into years ago.

As it sounds like an oxymoron, one of the strongest assets offered by director David Cage is that this is linear, but the choices offered make it feel open-ended. The six endings provide replay value to the somewhat short main game, but whether or not you’ll want to deal with some of the frustrations twice depends how valuable the multiple choices are to you. It would seem to make more sense if there was just one ending to cap the story as the game makers wanted given the totally story-driven nature of the game.

Is there anyone that Indigo Prophecy won’t appeal to? Many people actually. It’s a weird feeling not to have real control over the game, and pressing various directions on an analog stick to complete a scenario isn’t particularly interactive. It makes it accessible to those who can’t handle a FPS, but newcomers will need a long fuse. Conquering some of the more ridiculous challenges could cause broken equipment from tossed controllers.

While it’s definitely a mixed title as far as quality is concerned, Indigo Prophecy is a game that offers such a fresh experience, it becomes a game impossible not to recommend. If you know and understand what you’re getting into and can get past the bland visuals, you’ll find a great example of what video games may become in the future. Be aware that this won’t be for everyone though.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.