Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Lucidity, A Children's Tale

It seems most children's games, particularly those for the six to twelve age range, tend to be shoddy marketing tools for real world products. They are often shallow creations meant to teach the value of a useless grind, or satiate their modern hunger for collectibles. There are a few outliers of course, but they are few and far between.

There is, however, a slew of mature kid's books. Children's literature has discussed a wide range of mature themes, with many classic stories full of adult content. These works of fiction ask a great deal of their reader, and respect the experiences of a younger audience. There is a recent game from LucasArts that seems to meld the success of mature children's literature with videogames. So sit a spell, and let me tell you the tale of Lucidity.

Once upon a time, there was a surge of artful videogames.

During this time, the game connoisseur could find a friend in The Path, Blueberry Garden, or Braid. These games were charming, daring, and beautiful, and but a few among many. Most importantly, these games proved that low budget artful games could be economically viable. So LucasArts, an aging but respected developer and publisher, decided to renew their game development efforts by venturing into the world of artful games. And so Lucidity was born.
It might be more appropriate to say Lucidity was adopted. She shares more with other indie titles than she does with her LucasArts siblings. She has a quaint demeanor, with her soft hues and papered appearance. She wears colorful pastels but also has her share of darker and subdued levels. Like Blueberry Garden, Lucidity is instantly appealing.

When playing with Lucidity, she'll have you escort a young girl named Sofi across a treacherous level. Sofi never stops moving, and in order to help her, you have got to lay down an object in her path that will maneuver her to safety. But Lucidity is insidious. She likes to give you these objects - stairs, jump shoes, fans, planks, slingshots and bombs - completely randomly. If Sofi falls to her death, Lucidity will make you start all over.
Lucidity can be mean, but she is also mature for her age. She uses Sofi to tell a story about loss. Sofi's journey is a representation of how she confronts the death of her Nana. At the end of each segment, Lucidity gives you a postcard from the grandmother, helping Sofi grieve. When Sofi's grandmother dies, Lucidity tells the story of Sofi's grief and her eventual acceptance, incorporating the memories of her Nana into her life. Lucidity tells a sad and simple story that approaches death with tact and maturity. It is a story that would be a perfect addition to the children's game genre.

Unfortunately, Lucidity does not play well with others. Her artsy appeal hides her erratic behavior and an internal design far too cruel for kids. Lucidity will mock and tease you, making it very hard for you to escort Sofi anywhere but to certain death. She seems so kind at first, but she later insists you react with almost inhuman speed. She also adheres too much to the role set by Tetris and Lemmings, and is not fun to play with when she becomes stubborn and unkind. She forces you to abandon strategy for frantic button mashing and twitch gameplay. Lucidity asks too much of children and too little of adults.
We should feel bad for Lucidity. In some ways, she is so very unique and worthy of attention. If she were meant to play with kids, she would offer a much needed sense of maturity to her genre family. Instead, her delightful nature is wasted. Perhaps LucasArts didn't play with her enough during her early development stages, or perhaps they didn't give her enough attention. Perhaps their need to create something for the indie-artful crowd took precedence over their desire to create a game worthy of its name. If we wish hard enough, if we really encourage proper development, then maybe Lucidity will have a sister. And we will flock to her, children and adults alike, and praise her as an exemplary addition to the family.

The End

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