Saturday, October 27, 2012
Did you ever watch, say, The Omen and think ‘I really would like to know what it’s like to create all these accidents?’ Then you get a chance now, because Shiver Games has created an adventure in which you do precisely that. You play Lucius, the only child of politician Charles Wagner and his wife Nancy. Well, officially. Because your real father is Lucifer himself.
Born on June 6th, 1966, Lucius has grown up mostly normal for six years before the game starts up. The only thing his parents worry about is the fact that Lucius doesn’t talk. Apart from that, he is a healthy, little boy who does what he is told and doesn’t cause problems. On his sixth birthday, however, things take a turn for the worst.
When alone in the kitchen with one of Dante Manor’s maids (Dante Manor being the home of the family) in the evening, the time slows down and Lucius sees a strange man who motions for him to lock the maid into the walk-in freezer. Once he has done so, secured the door with a padlock, and lowered the temperature, his life moves in a new direction. The strange man, who visits him in his dreams from now on, is no other than Lucifer, Lord of Hell. And Lucius is his son and supposed to work for the family business by bringing in souls. While doing so, he will gain powers that make things easier for him (especially as a six-year-old is not that powerful physically).
The game is an adventure with a few difficult parts (twice you are sneaking through the manor at night and have to make sure you are not seen, these passages are hard). You move through the manor like you would in most 3D games, controlling Lucius’ movements with WSAD, as usual. If you are a very good boy (do a lot of chores), you will even get a little tricycle. Two other items you get as rewards are a Ouija board (gives one basic hint per chapter) and a music box (helps you find important items). Besides gaining rewards, being a good boy also serves to make you less suspicious, so it’s a good idea to do your chores. Plus some chores, such as cleaning up your room or taking out the trash, give you a chance to practice your telekinesis skill.
Which brings us to the next part. As promised, Lucius gains new skills (and strengthens them) by killing people and sacrificing their souls. The first skill is telekinesis which allows him to manipulate stuff that is out of his reach. And in a manor filled with adults, a lot of stuff is kept out of a kid’s reach, normally. Mind control follows afterwards, giving him a chance to get someone to use something. Like this, Lucius can make some deaths look like suicide or terrible accidents. Advancing from mind control, Lucius gains the ability to manipulate people’s short-time memory. Like this, if he gets spotted by someone (which is a ‘game over’ before that point), he can make them forget and continue with his plans (what would I have given for that ability earlier, that is to say in the fifth chapter). Finally, he gains the ability to protect himself with a fireball. This ability, however, is usually locked and can only be accessed at some points of the game. Lucius is no flame-throwing demon (at least not outwardly), but a harmless kid. Skills evolve with time, which means they can be used longer or more effective.
The logical victims for Lucius crusade for souls are the people living and working on his father’s estate (including, of course, his family). The sequence in which they have to die is preset, Lucius finds his next victim by meeting them somewhere in the house. He has a vision in which the time slows down and he sees blood all around them. Additional help and occasional hints are provided by a present he gets from his ‘real’ father very early: a notebook with all necessary information. The notebook also records everything he hears and keeps track of his chores – practical stuff. The other present, though, is not really that useful. The flashlight can’t be used at night when sneaking, because it would draw attention, and is not useful during the day. The few times it might be used, diffuse ambient light still proved good enough for me.
Most of the time (with the exception of the first three chapters and his nightly escapades) Lucius can enter most rooms whenever he wants. This can be used to the player’s advantage (by gathering stuff long ahead of its use). For instance, picking up the glue in the classroom before chapter 10 is a very good idea, because it shortens sneaking time through the house at night. Instead of crossing the house once to get into the classroom, then going back and down through the utility room and the garage, Lucius just has to make his way down to the wine cellar and the secret chamber below it. Just employ the good, old ‘if it’s not nailed down, pick it up’ method of adventure gaming and you are good to go. The game allows the player free movement through a huge mansion most of the time and comes with a map that also shows the way to the next target, until it has been found. Means of disposal usually present themselves in some way. Something the characters say may include a tip, not necessarily only to their own demise.
As the house empties of staff, the story is told very well. Cutscenes show in gruesome detail how the victims die. Voiceovers from the detective investing the case, Mr. McGuffin, lead from one chapter to the next. The music is fitting, in some levels (chapter five, when you have to sneak around without being spotted first) it’s necessary to turn on the sounds, so you hear people passing you by or doors being opened and closed. The game relies on save-points instead of allowing you to save wherever you want. That means you can’t save every step until you are through with difficult passages. Save-points, however, are frequent enough and placed well, most of the time. (If you ask me, one between avoiding Lucius’ mother and distracting the detective in chapter five would have been nice.) The graphics are good, even though not really state-of-the-art. There is at least one spot you can get caught by (if you walk in the corner wall between the classroom and the door to the balcony over the library), which had me replaying a few levels, because I couldn’t get away. The whole game has a very good atmosphere and the movements of people during the house (during the day they don’t mind Lucius around, but some things should not be done with someone else in a room) adds a more realistic feeling. Setting up the ‘accidents’ for people requires thinking and taking advantage of the place.
If you mind gruesome games and blood, you should not play Lucius, that much is for sure. If you like exploring your dark side a little and play a game in which you can wreak havoc without grenade launcher and mini-gun, you definitely should have a closer look and give Lucius a good (really?) home.