Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
When my review copy of Lux-Pain arrived on my desk I had no idea what I was about to get myself into, but as this game is published by Ignition Entertainment I had positive expectations given their recent release of the extremely surprising title Boing! Docomodake. Well Lux-Pain is another Ignition published game with a very ‘Japanese’ feel. It showcases the work of hot Japanese animator Robin Kishiwada, whose credits include cover illustrations for Eureka Seven series. It also features music composed by Kenji Ito, well-known for the music in SaGa, Mana, and Culdcept series’, and Yasuyuki Suzuki, of Operation Logic Bomb, Tail of the Sun, and Space Invaders Extreme fame. So how does it fair you ask? Read on.
I have give developers Killaware the big thumbs up for the look of this title. For anyone that is a fan of Anime, or loves Japanese culture of any sort, then Lux-Pain’s visual style will appeal to you. The majority of the screens are static; however some do have animated sequences within them. Overall they are all quite colorful and have that distinct Anime flavor you may expect knowing the artist(s) involved. There are different areas for you to explore, and each one looks like you are in a different vicinity of the game. I was quite happy with the visuals although I could not help but want to have seen much more animation on the screen, as the game’s style really screamed out for such.
The sound is somewhat of a mixed bag, but what really stands out here is the voice acting. I am always amazed with what developers can squeeze out of a DS card, and Lux-Pain is no exception. To be able to provide great voice work, on a storage medium that is very well known for its limitations, is pretty impressive. Each characters voice manages to match their Anime style look to a tee and it help the game in someway. That being said, this is hampered a bit by the fact that what is heard through the DS speakers, or through your own headphones, does not always match the text that is on screen. As for the rest of the sound package, the music is ok, but nothing that is monumental or has you wanting to hunt down the soundtrack, and the sound effects manage to do their job in a very “I get the job done” kind of way. Bottomline, it is the voice acting that steals the show in this area.
The story of Lux-Pain is set in historical Kisaragi City, a town plagued by mysteries from small mishaps to murders - with no logical explanation as to why these events occur. It seems “Silent”, a worm born through hate and sadness, has infected humans and forced them to commit atrocious crimes. Our hero's parents are victims of such crimes. To avenge his parents, Atsuki goes through a dangerous operation to acquire Lux-Pain in his left arm, a power so strong that his left eye turns golden when using it to seek and destroy “Silent” for good. As a member of FORT, a task force who can locate the “Silent” worms, you go undercover to Kisaragi High School in your effort to find these worms in other people and eventually hunt down to the root of this evil.
The premise of the story is very interesting to say the least, and the Japanese setting lends itself well to it. I should also forwarn you that there is a lot of depressing themes which many should watch out for as this is not particularly a happy game. So with the promise of a good and mature story it is unfortunate that the execution of the gameplay is what hurts this game. The basis for this is the fact that the majority of the game is text heavy and that there is an insurmountable amount of reading to be done. This game is definitely not for those looking for an action packed experience. Be prepared to do a lot, and I do mean a lot of reading.
Usually I do not mind having to read in a game. Heck, I went to university so I have done my fair share of reading of dry material, but at least I was able to understand the majority of text I read while attending my post-secondary institution. That being said, while trying to follow the text in Lux-Pain I found myself pretty much lost most of the time. In simple terms I was pretty darn confused a lot. With this in mind, I am forced to try to write about something that I actually struggled with.
In terms of the actual gameplay, you will find that your surroundings, the city of Kisaragi, are broken up into different emotional areas which are represented by color. The most basic of analogies is used here. For example, blue is sorrow and red is anger. Yep, it is that basic. Once you decide which area you wish to explore, you then go to your desired locale and start the task at reading, and listening, to all the information the game provides you the specific area you are in. So where does the actually interactive gameplay happen? Well, every so often you will see a Roman numeral (Sigma) on screen, and once you see this a timer starts to countdown. Here you are tasked to scratch the touch-screen of your DS to discover the worms (or Shinen as they are known in the game) that are in the person you are exploring. Once you find them you press the stylus on them for a short time to remove them from their host. You are awarded EXP for the number of worms you find and how long it took you to extract them.
Now this is where it gets even crazier. Once you have taken the worms from their host, you will put them back into the host where you got them from. Each of these worms has an emotional or descriptor phrase attached to them, hence why they cause the ‘emotional’ turmoil within their host. These phrases, when sent back into the original host, allow you to read the hosts thoughts in an effort to piece together more information to solve your mystery.
So wadda think so far? Are you confused? Well I was for sure. Don’t get me wrong, the whole premise of Lux-Pain is very intriguing, even fascinating, but it just isn’t well implemented. The story itself feels very fragmented, and the translation of the text from Japanese to English seems to be broken. It is as if the localization of the subject content was not fully translated as it seems to leave out certain things, and what these things are I do not know as some of the dialog is pretty disjointed. Also, the whole ‘scratching the screen for the worm(s)’ thing, well this happens far and few between, and not nearly enough as you would expect in a game like this, and I have to say, that it is WAY too simple. It does not engage you like you would hope as it is too straightforward and very unrewarding.
Should you manage to get yourself through the game once, there is really no reason to play again, as the Lux-Pain does not have much replay value at all. The genre of the game does not lend itself to any sort of cooperative or multiplayer experience either, as it would not be that enjoyable for you and a friend to muddle through the same text and somewhat disjointed story either.
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