Lightbringer: The Next Giant Leap for Mankind Review
By Michael Richter |
With all the graphic adventures making their way to entertainment store shelves over the past several months, one has to wonder how many more original ideas can be conceived to fuel these games. I mean how many eerie houses with a dark past, or long lost tropical islands can there be left to explore? At least Dreamcatcher Interactive didn't have to come up with any original ideas for Lightbringer, since the entire game had already been released under the name Cydonia. Some legal issues apparently forced the name change, but as the box indicates (albeit in a small font on the back of the packaging) the game is identical in every way to its previous incarnation. So basically, if you've already seen Cydonia lurking around the bargain bin, don't expect too much more from its twin brother.
The title's intriguing one paragraph story line places you into the shoes of a NASA expedition leader to Mars. Tragically, human beings have all but completely obliterated this wonderful little planet of ours, and the necessity to relocate has become a real priority. Your team is sent to the red planet to investigate the possibility of permanent colonization of the entire human race. Interestingly enough, the time chosen for this plot line is only 12 years from now. Apparently, the next decade or so is going to be characterized by an enormous amount of advances in space construction and propulsion industries, and an irresistible desire to completely annihilate what's left of our habitat... Happy New Year.
Unfortunately, the mission does not go well. While entering the atmosphere of the red planet, an electromagnetic disturbance of some kind shorts out the landing pod and sends the craft plummeting to the surface of the barren world. It's at this point, in the broken compartment of your lander, that you take over the actions of the game's hero.
Right about here fans of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour may start to feel comfortable with the environment. The gameplay in Lightbringer is very reminiscent of those two titles it basically a number of challenging puzzles that need to be completed in order to open up new areas to explore and ultimately advance the story. However, the game also harbors an inventory system, which sets it apart from those titles of the past and brings it up to date with the more recent adventures of this style. While some of the puzzles can be manipulated with only the components given to the players, others require the assistance or use of something else from the environment. Sometimes these mysterious items are found several "screens" away from one another, making it difficult to associate what should be used where. Thankfully, when this is the case, users can implement the game's built in "hint guide" to offer a clue as to what should be done next. By pressing F1, players can be treated to a subtle suggestion directly from the minds of the developers. Unfortunately, this is just a tad misleading since on several occasions as I pressed the button and awaited the clue which would surely get me moving once more, I was instead greeted with the message "Enough hints for now". This was then followed suggestively by a phone number I could call to order the printed help manual for the low, low price of $9.95. Needless to say, I was more than just a little annoyed by this "teaser" function built into the framework of the game. Think of someone giving you a couple of bites of a really fantastic steak, yanking it away from you moments later, and then demanding not only that you pay to receive the rest of it, but also wait 6-8 weeks for delivery.
Even brushing aside the flirtatious nature of Lightbringer's hint system, I was struck by this game's startling mediocrity. Visually, many of the scenes presented were fairly impressive. Sadly, once you actually start moving through the environment, you'll notice a depressing level of pixelation and (surprisingly enough) color changes that plague what could have been a rather stunning atmosphere. In all fairness, the metallic walkways of alien ships stranded on Mars may in fact change color from green to red when you step on them, but for the sake of this review, I'm going to stick with existing scientific research and continue my assumption that they don't. At times, it was almost as if the game was having trouble running with the resources it had at its disposal. Since it was being run on a system that boasted more than twice the requirements given on the box, this really should not have been a concern. Finally, the developers also seem to be bigfans of the cutscene movie, as these were displayed time and time again with comparatively small amounts of gameplay in between. Gamers who enjoy the cinematic qualities of adventures like this may appreciate the gesture, but the action-oriented may find themselves nodding off.
The sound factor was equally lackluster, offering only adequate background music and effects. As with several games in this genre, it appears that the value of a good soundtrack and convincing sound effects just isn't considered as being important to the end product's impact. It seems to me that the music that accompanies your character walking around in the cabin of his broken vessel should not be the same as that which is being played while blasting across the landscape at breakneck speed in a hovercraft. After all, you'll most likely be melancholy enough as you try to decipher some of the title's asinine puzzles - the music doesn't have to bring you down any further.
So what's my advice? Approach this box with caution. Inside lies a game that may possibly appeal to hard core fans of the graphic adventure, especially if they're predisposed towards difficult puzzle-solving over and above the other elements by which a game is judged. Other gamers probably won't be able to get past the unpleasant parts of this title to get to that juicy center they're seeking. The bottom line is that those who aren't turned on by this genre probably aren't going to be won over by this one, and even those that are should still make sure they're shopping somewhere with a generous return policy.
-- Rich Rouse