Months ago, I previewed the first case of Grundislav Games’ latest point & click adventure game, Lamplight City, a crime drama adventure set in a Victorian-esque steampunk world, where it’s all too possible to screw up an investigation and not reach the right conclusion.
Having now played through the entire game, I can say I enjoyed my time in New Bretagne with my new detective buddy Miles Fordham and the annoying voice in his head. It’s a fun adventure, even with the uneven quality of the different cases.
A Brave New World: The City of New Bretagne (which I’m sure is New Orléans) is a thriving Victorian era city still adjusting to the growing presence of steam-powered machines and the effect of industrialisation on people’s livelihoods. And with the threat of even better machines and the mysterious element known as aethericity, things become that much more volatile. And though only a couple of cases deal directly with the socio-political turmoil of the city, it’s a great backdrop for the adventure and gives the world enough substance to feel meaningful.
All in your head…Maybe: The best thing about Lamplight City, for me, is that you never really know if the voice Fordham hears is in fact that of his deceased partner or just his guilt talking. You don’t see the ghost, you just hear his disembodied voice following, mocking and a few times even guilt-tripping Fordham so both explanations work perfectly well. It’s up to you to decide what was going on. I’m particular for the spectre, because I prefer things magical.
Touchy Subjects: As a detective game, Lamplight City’s main gameplay mechanic is engaging in conversation with witnesses and suspects alike and the one thing that it does differently from most other titles in the genre is that you’re quite capable of screwing up an investigation by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Some of them are touchy about certain subjects and you’ll often get a warning, but keep pushing and you’re done. It’s an interesting mechanic and it will make adventure game players stumble, as we’re all used to talking about everything with all characters, confident that no matter how much we push, they will tell us their life stories. Not so much in Lamplight City.
Good Cop, Great Criminals: Despite my opinions on the nature of the cases themselves, the stories they tell are very good, with the motivations for the crimes covering greed, grief, love, drugs and even insanity depending on your point of view. I loved how Fordham’s explanation of the case included sketches of crime scenes and culprits.
Wasted Gimmick: The first case in Lamplight City, past the prologue, is superb and uses the possibility of screwing up the investigation to its fullest, with more than one suspect and the true culprit only clear if you do everything perfectly. Having said so, the rest of the game doesn’t have the same level of quality. It’s not that the cases are bad, but the criminals are too obvious and there aren’t many chances of messing up. Hell, the fourth case has only one possible culprit and those you can offend and lose your time on are merely red herrings. I expected Lamplight City to become much harder and complex near the end. It didn’t.