Lux-Pain Review

With nonsensical dialogue muddling the complex plot, Lux-Pain shows how an entire experience can be ruined by poor localization.

Video games have come a long way since simply urging you to save the princess, and these days they increasingly present stories with complex, mature themes and social commentary. Lux-Pain, from publisher Ignition Entertainment, is a novel-style adventure game in the vein of the Phoenix Wright series, and it attempts to deliver a poignant experience to Nintendo DS owners. Instead, it is quickly tripped up by a plethora of embarrassing localization miscues, and what little exciting gameplay there is cannot break its fall.

The general concept is easy enough to grasp. An infection known as "Silent" has been spreading around the city of Kisaragi, causing citizens to organize group suicides, commit delinquent and criminal acts, and basically just go nuts in one way or another. As Atsuki Saijo, a member of an anti-Silent group called "FORT," you're charged with going undercover as a high-school student to ultimately uncover patient zero: the original Silent victim. Bestowed with telepathic powers, you'll spend the next few weeks reading the thoughts of your classmates, teachers, and neighbors to deduce who Silent has infected and, hopefully, remove the infection.

Scrape at the screen to uncover her emotional worms.
Scrape at the screen to uncover her emotional worms.

Powerful emotions within people as well as residual emotions lingering in the environment--both referred to as "shinen" and represented as parasitic worms in the game--are the keys to uncovering the thoughts throughout the game. Atsuki automatically senses these, and when he does, a probing minigame is activated. In it, you simply tap at the touch screen to determine where a hidden shinen lies, scratch away at that area to reveal the shinen, and then hold your stylus on the worm to remove it.

The results of a successful probe are nothing short of baffling: The worm manifests itself into a "term," which is just a short phrase consisting of no more than a few words (such as "dumb kids," "kill them," or "nice guy"), which you must then "imprint" back into the characters' minds to discover what they're thinking. These thoughts range wildly from homicidal, self-loathing, and even flirtatious. Armed with the knowledge that you're supposed to gain from reading these thoughts, as well as information that you pick up through normal dialogue in school and on the street, you can track down Silent victims, have FORT examine the extracted infections, and find the original infection.

Sadly, this interesting idea never really pans out. A large portion of the dialogue is poorly and inconsistently localized, giving off the impression that multiple translators used different criteria in determining how to express given lines in English. It also seems as if the source material was scattershot. What you're left with are lines of dialogue that seem slightly out of sequence in relation to each other. You're also exposed to long chats that simply drag out the time between important plot points, such as the 30-plus lines about hunger and homemade cookies before finding out that a friend just landed herself in the hospital. This all makes the story harder to follow than it should be, and detracts from your ability to think about where to go and who to contact to achieve your goal.

Even worse, at the most basic level, you're showered with grammatically incorrect and confusing sentences such as, "Seeing such joy is what is to some people," or those that were simply translated too literally such as, "I ate his mind." Colloquialisms such as "wanna" and "gotta" are followed inexplicably by single apostrophes. Finally, it's almost guaranteed that you'll encounter an egregious spelling mistake nearly every hour. Taking the most basic plot points into account, it's pretty clear that Lux-Pain's story was inspired by serious social issues (parental negligence, serious depression, and suicide). It's a shame that the botched localization results in too much unintentional humor to take any of Lux-Pain's commentary seriously.

I wanna erase your MIND.
I wanna erase your MIND.

Despite the localization's best efforts to thwart your progress, proceeding through the game is never really a problem because Lux-Pain is a very guided experience--so much so that it ends up a bore. You simply tap on active points on the map to visit an area and talk to anyone standing there, but half of the time, the game dictates specifically where you can go. In addition, you rarely get to choose what to ask of whoever you encounter. More often than not, the person will show up, spit out reams of irrelevant dialogue, and leave. Thus there's little need to try to sift through the (largely useless) information that you've accumulated, given that progress is reduced mostly to visiting every possible place until you find a Silent victim.

When you do encounter someone who is infected by Silent, Atsuki detects this (without any effort from you, naturally) and the game launches into Silent-Removal mode. This is the most mechanically involving portion of Lux-Pain's gameplay; one of several minigames make you poke, slash, and chisel away at white blobs on the touch screen to successfully remove the Silent. These sections are only occasionally challenging and don't make up at all for the game's other deficiencies. To add insult to injury, one Silent encounter resulted in a Game Over screen without any explanation--even after the Silent was defeated.

With neither thrilling gameplay nor an immersive story, the presentation in Lux-Pain simply goes to waste. The anime-inspired character art is colorful, if not all that well animated. The English voice actors recognize how awkward the translation is and paraphrase much of their dialogue such that you're actually able to understand and appreciate small pockets of the story. Your in-game cell phone can receive optional news broadcasts, e-mail, and ringtones, and the local Internet cafe has a message board that's updated with information every day (though you can't post on it yourself). There are even multiple endings based on whose Silent infections you've removed. Sadly, the game fails to deliver on the most basic element of a novel-style adventure so any added features are wasted, much like any time you'd spend with Lux-Pain.

The Good

  • Interesting premise
  • Pleasing artwork
  • Decent voice acting

The Bad

  • Uninspired gameplay mechanics
  • Bewildering translation destroys the novel-style experience

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Alright, I am honestly getting annoyed by how many bad reviews this game has. Before I say anything, I want to make it absolutely clear that this is my own honest opinion and therefore do not need the flamming.

I cannot help being ticked off by the negative reviews that - not only this site but others as well - have given "Lux-Pain". I had been trying to find this game for years (as no stores in my area have had it) and when I finally got it a few months ago, I can't say how excited I was. Take a minute and ignore the messy localization and simple controls; it leaves a game full of raw emotion, amazing music and well-drawn art. It may be because the fact I as a person take things to heart easily, as I have been able to relate to numerous characters, but I feel this game has been treated unfairly. I have read whatever reviews I can find, and they all bash this game simply because of the localization.

Get over the grammar issues already. You'll have that with any translated game, and for one character - a Chinese woman who runs a shop in Kisaragi - it actually fits her dialogue because her grammar wouldn't be perfect as she is not from the country the game is placed in, be it Japan or America. As long as you aren't extremely ticked off by grammar issues, it shouldn't be an issue.

Take my word for it, I played this and the much higher rated visual novel game "Time Hollow". If what they say about a movie or game being very good if it makes you cry, then "Lux-Pain" far surpassed "Time Hollow" in my opinion. It is the only game I have ever played that made me cry, and I know many others have for the same reason as well. A game isn't just about the text and controls; you also need to take a good look at what's really happening through the course of the story line. If you do that, you'll see that this game really is worth your time, unlike how this review states " any added features are wasted, much like any time you'd spend with Lux-Pain."

If you don't believe me, then I dare you to play it yourself. Take it seriously and ignore the grammar problems, as most are just a couple of gender confusion errors and a couple of misspellings, all of which appear in any other game anyway, as I've noticed with Time Hollow as well. Thank you for taking a look at the view of someone who truly supports this game, and I hope you have fun playing.

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First Released Mar 27, 2009
  • DS


Average Rating

134 Rating(s)

Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Drug Reference, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violent References