A Vision of Falling Snow
Once. No sound comes out. The knife sings without mercy. Twice. The body writhes on the floor. The knife steals without repent. Thrice. But his life has already left. And with your head staring at the sky, your arms spread like wings of death. But then you awaken. Consciousness returns. And as the crow flies away, you begin to understand. You are the killer. You are Lucas Kane.
Indigo Prophecy goes beyond the cinematic experience. It reaches a pinnacle in storytelling that can only be told through the interactive medium. It won't impress you with its unresponsive controls, lackluster graphics, and repetitive gameplay, but you will be so engaged in the storyline that you just won't care. Though somewhat cliché, the storyline immerses you so well that it makes even the game's most glaring flaws forgivable. Examining the game by standard criteria won't lead to any answers to why you will be so hooked. You will simply feel an indescribable force pushing you forward, a relentless gravity moving you down an emotional roller coaster. And even far after the ride ends, you will remember the rush.
Your mind falters. Panic brushes down your face. You have to hide the body. One misstep and you might get caught. One more depressing thought and you might commit suicide.
Mental health plays as the character's psychological life bar. Watch someone die, lose mental health. Save an innocent life, gain some back. However, doing even simple and mundane things like drinking water or checking yourself in the mirror will affect your mental health. While you won't have to worry much about ever falling to zero, this see-saw life bar will make you connect with the characters while keeping you on edge. Virtually everything you do will have an impact and knowing that there are direct consequences for your actions is a disillusioning and most unsettling experience.
More than any game before it, Indigo Prophecy allows you to determine your fate. Dialogue sequences will have you ask and answer from a number of possibilities. But choose wisely. Lying might actually be better than telling the truth. Two NYPD police officers, Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, are hot on your trail and leaving behind the tiniest bloodstain might lead to your end. However, in a welcome twist, you play both sides of the story, adding the much needed depth missing from other adventure games. Like the mental health bar, it is a simple yet effective technique in creating emotional conflict and keeping you interested in the plot.
While emotionally engaging, the script is not particularly original and loses steam near the end. The game opens with such a bloody murder that the rushed, open-ended conclusion lacks polish. In particular, there is a romance that occurs late in the plot that is not only completely predictable, but told so unconvincingly that you feel cheated from what could have been an amazing storyline. There is also a belated "save the world" spiel that does not sell particularly well, since the majority of the game is told as a mystery-thriller. And all the while, Tyler Miles just feels limped into the story without much thought. Though the intermission sequences with Tyler do break up the monotony and bring some variety to the gameplay, his character is little more than the black stereotype of a tall guy acting like a playa' and that just happens to play basketball. Moreover, his numerous efforts to appease his girlfriend Sam have little relevance to the storyline, and honestly, he is just a heavy-handed disruption that is not worth the weight.
The controls and the camera also get in the way with lumbering animations and disorienting angles. The facial animations really bring out emotions well, but the characters move in a stiff and clunky manner, making it difficult to turn. There aren't many places in the game that require you to turn on a dime, but the sudden changes in camera angles happen so frequently that just walking around becomes an aggravating affair. One minute, you'll be walking through the middle of the room from the left, and the next, you will be coming from the top, the right, or diagonally from a narrow hallway. The game does offer some camera control, but the camera moves so slowly that you will give up all together and just leave the camera to its own devices. It is true that the different shots are intended to highlight the scene, and the effort absolutely shows in each cinematic cut-scene. However, outside of these cinematic sequences, the camera distracts and frustrates the player more than anything else.
The visions begin to blind you. You can not stay here. You see them coming. The bullets, the cops, the crows, and even the angels are after you. And whether you have to run, bend twist, or climb, you will fight for your life. You will prove your innocence no matter what it takes.
The game offers new gameplay mechanics for high-action sequences that might seem silly but are surprisingly effective. The first mechanic places two circular Simon-Says panels in the middle of the screen and has you follow a sequence of glowing colors with the analog sticks. If you fail a sequence, you lose a life. The second and more effective mechanic has you press the L1 and R1 shoulder buttons alternately as fast as you can. This type of action sequence is associated with strength-type activities like opening a tight window; accordingly, pressing the two buttons will wear your hands to the point that you understand what the character is going through. Many might find these two features to be bizarre and annoying, but they immerse you into the gameplay.
On the other hand, the unlockables and collectibles are just time-consuming ploys. Throughout the game, you can find crucifixes and tarot cards scattered in random nooks and crannies - just as exciting as going on a scavenger hunt for bling-bling crosses and spinning picture cards. Crucifixes net you extra lives during action sequences, but even if you die, you can simply restart the scene with three brand new lives. Just as pointless are tarot cards that give you bonus points which you can use to unlock movies and music, but simply completing the game gives more than enough bonus points to unlock everything. And for as difficult as it is to find this stuff, they both should have just been removed from the game entirely.
Both the graphics and the sound are also not particularly exciting, but they set the depressing environment in a subtle and most delicate manner. While the amount of graphical detail is only adequately passable, the washed-out tones, the cold whites and blue, and the earthy browns bring out the melancholy mood of Indigo Prophecy. The soundtrack only has fourteen songs, but they are worth each and every note. Whether it's rock by Theory of a Dead Man, soul, funk, or jazz by Nina Simone, the licensed soundtrack captures the essence of each genre and each scene without sounding generic or intellectual. The violin interludes by Angelo Badalementi express sorrow beautifully with the same power and conviction as a John Williams score. After unlocking the soundtrack, don't be surprised to find yourself listening to the same song over and over again.
Indigo Prophecy is like a dot drawing. The dots themselves are not compelling or impressive, but seen as a whole picture, they merge together to become a brilliant work of art. Furthermore, it is a declaration of video gaming as an artform. Indigo Prophecy effectively explores agency, the ability of players to change the world around them, by providing the player sufficient control over the storyline. Without the engaging gameplay mechanics, the game would be a second-rate, "The Matrix" rip-off. Indeed, if Indigo Prophecy was a movie, it would be bashed for being unoriginal and a complete waste of time. Instead, as a game, you will be drawn into the story and engrossed in the environment and the sound effects. The emotive scriptwriting is powerful yet it operates so much on the edge of your consciousness that you will keep on playing the game without knowing the full reason why.
The thought continues to consume you. Your search for the truth burns in your eyes. You run and hide for your quest to understand. You return home and sleep, but you soon find yourself staring beyond the window. Your life does not seem to matter. Fate stands still.
Indigo Prophecy goes underappreciated.
Just like the falling snow.