Lux-Pain Hands-On

With our golden eye and Lux-Pain, we peer into the minds of criminals in this dark and eerie adventure game.

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Although technically classified under the genre of adventure, Lux-Pain is more than just pointing and tapping. You're using your powers of telepathy, aka your stylus, to uncover people's "shinen," their deepest and darkest thoughts. Based on what we've played, Lux-Pain draws you into its creepy atmosphere and chilling mysteries through a ton of dialogue. If you don't like to read, then this game isn't for you, but for those who do, you'll be introduced to the intriguing citizens of Kisaragi City.

Scribble away at the touch screen in order to find a person's shinen.
Scribble away at the touch screen in order to find a person's shinen.

The game doesn't waste any time by having you immediately investigate a disturbing incident and discover some twisted shinen. If we hadn't read the fact sheet that came with the game, we would have no idea why we had this mind-reading power in the first place. You play as Atsuki, a young man who is a member of FORT (Force for Obliteration of the Rising Terrors), an organization that is out to destroy something called "silent." Silent is a worm that infects humans and causes them to commit heinous crimes. Atsuki lost his parents because of this infection, so he's dedicated himself, with the power of Lux-Pain in his arm, to hunt down the original source of silent and end it. He has the ability to access shinen, which appear as fragmented phrases in the top screen to reveal that person's thoughts. It's all very bizarre, and if you can get past the initial stages and not feel totally lost, you'll get used to how the game flows and the story becomes quite fascinating.

Instead of wandering around aimlessly, the game limits your selection when it comes to locations so that ultimately you'll advance the story without wasting a lot of time. It's like reading a mystery novel and waiting to see what happens in the next chapter. In the first few hours of the game, there isn't a lot in terms of gameplay. When gameplay does come up, there's no tutorial to guide you, but you'll quickly figure out what it is that you need to do. Most of the time you're exploring different areas of the historical Kisaragi City by selecting which locations you want to visit, talking to locals, and trying to find out if they have any useful information to offer. It seems that when a person is agitated enough, or showing some kind of strong emotion, they leave behind shinen, which you can then research more closely by scribbling with the stylus. You enter what's called Sigma mode, which lets you wipe away at the touch screen until you find floating blobs that are supposed to be worms. Keeping your stylus on these worms, they'll eventually disappear and leave behind memories and feelings of the person they belonged to. You're on a timer when you're swiping, and it's game over if you fail, but most of the time you should be able to uncover the worms and get rid of them before you're out of time.

The game relies heavily on its story and visuals to keep you engaged, and the locations that you visit are varied enough so that even though you're only moving from one still screen to another, you can still find yourself immersed in the city and eventually becoming familiar with all of its locations. The music also does a fantastic job of sucking you in and setting the mood, especially while you're peering into the minds of disturbed individuals. Chilling melodies will change the atmosphere entirely, but you'll also hear a lot of beautiful and poignant themes show up when you've come across someone who's experiencing emotional pain. A wide range of emotions are represented in the game, so there's a good mix of tracks to keep your aural senses stimulated. There's also a fair amount of voice acting as well, which is a nice touch.

 Meet an interesting cast of characters to help you with your investigation.
Meet an interesting cast of characters to help you with your investigation.

Lux-Pain may require very little skill to play, but it's really about the story and how it unfolds. It can be morbid at times, but there are touching moments as well when you'll find yourself sympathizing with the characters that you meet--while totally violating their privacy by reading their thoughts. If you're looking for something different on the Nintendo DS, keep an eye out for Lux-Pain when it is released on March 27.

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