Developer: Grundislav Games
Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
Price: £11.39 // $14.99
I enjoy a good point and click adventure game to unwind to in the evenings. For me, its akin to reading a good book except with more interactivity and puzzle solving involved. There’s been no shortage of point and click adventures released recently and Lamplight City is one of them.
Miles Fordham, a troubled man needing closure
Francisco Gonzalez’s follow up to 2016’s Shardlight is a detective game set in the fictional city of New Bretagne. You play as private investigator Miles Fordham. A former detective who struggles with some inner demons following the death of his partner, Bill, during a routine burglary investigation. The opening sequence of the game lets you play through this milestone moment. From then on Miles keeps hearing Bill’s voice in his head, tormenting him from beyond the grave and not being able to move on from what happened. In the desperate attempt to shut Bill’s voice out he takes sleeping tablets but finds it a growing struggle to maintain face while under their influence.
Bill adds humour with his no-nonsense commentary throughout the game. I really grew to love Bill and he was one of my favourite things about the game. Only Miles (and you) can hear Bill’s ramblings, and the constant banter between the two illustrate the close relationship they had. The close relationship between the two help you empathise with the inner torment that Miles is going through following Bill’s death. After all, there’s no point in trying to tell a story if nobody is going to care for the characters involved.
New Bretagne – a bustling 19th century city
The different locations you explore during your investigations are enjoyable to explore; they are well designed and there’s a lot to look at. You can pretty much hover the cursor on any prominent object for it to change to a magnifying glass and have Bill voice his thoughts on it. Gonzalez has stated that Lamplight City was influenced by the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens (see In Conversation with Grundislav Games). This combined with the Victorian art style, sets a dark sinister undertone to the game and reflects the anxieties of the time well.
The game boasts there are over 50 characters and they are brought to life wonderfully by the voice cast involved. When you question the characters, the screen changes to focus in on their faces and the dialogue choices are listed in the centre for you to choose from. The characters faces are well illustrated and remind me of the type of close up shots used in the Secret of Monkey Island and Gabriel Knight. I like this approach to questioning as you can see more details in the characters faces which you wouldn’t otherwise see.
The soundtrack is eerie and elevates the game to create the perfect atmosphere for your investigations. Composed by Mark Benis, the music score is also available to buy. The sound effects have been well put together. For example, Miles’ footsteps sound different as he walks over plain floorboards to a carpet. Sounds like a small point but this combined with the superb voice acting adds great polish to the game. The ambient sounds are great too, from coffee shop patrons minding their own business, to the noise of an angry crowd at a protest. It all comes together to make Bretagne feel like a real, bustling city as Miles travels from location to location.
Can I ask you a few questions?
Lamplight City is orientated towards investigating a case by asking the right questions and following the right leads. Clues are littered around and it’s up to you to join the dots together. However, not everything is relevant and the wrong suspect can be accused of a crime. There is no inventory and there aren’t the type of puzzles normally found in adventure games. You don’t need to worry about picking up every object you see in case it can be used to solve a puzzle later on. You know the type of puzzles I mean. The puzzles that you can’t complete because you didn’t collect an object at a previous location. You retrace your steps methodically checking every pixel to make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed. Either that or you try combining all the objects in your inventory together in the desperate attempt that there’s some illogical thought process you haven’t thought about. There’s none of that tomfoolery at play with Lamplight City. You can collect clues/objects but they get placed into Miles’ casebook. It then unlocks additional questions that can be asked or unlock other ways you can interact with the environment around you.
I found the omission of a traditional inventory system refreshing. I felt more of a detective trying to find out the truth, rather than somebody playing a game trying to solve a puzzle to make the story progress. That’s not to say that there are no puzzles whatsoever, but they are used sporadically through the game. I was left scratching my head with a puzzle in the first case because I couldn’t for the life of me work out what I had to do. I had already progressed enough that I could accuse one of two suspects of being the culprit but there was still a line of enquiry left open that could possibly change things again. I refused to settle, and the completionist in me persevered and I eventually solved the puzzle. In doing so it unlocked another option when wrapping up the case. The puzzle designs are clever and really make you think in order to beat them, but they aren’t so illogical that they’re unfair.
Actions have consequences
One of the features of the game is its non-linear nature and the possibility of different outcomes. The path of the game changes depending on the result of your investigations. You can accuse the wrong person of being the culprit and your choices have a butterfly effect felt later in the game. I was devastated when I sneezed and accidentally clicked on the wrong name when I was about to announce who I believed to be guilty. I knew it wasn’t that person but instead of restarting I decided to carry on and see how it changed the story. Later on, I went back to a previous save file and made sure I didn’t have a sneezes brewing when I chose my guilty suspect.
Different pathways open up to you (or are closed off to you) depending on the choices you make in the game. One example I can give was when I unintentionally insulted a woman and she then threw me out of her house. Whoops! It was annoying because I had loads of questions left to ask and that line of investigation was effectively cut off. I even tried knocking on the door again in the vain hope I could apologise and she would let me back in. I must have really upset her because she didn’t even answer. If you fail to solve a case, the self-doubt creeps in for Miles and Bill criticises your ability as a private investigator.
This game was provided by Application Systems Heidelberg for the purpose of this review.
Read our interview with Lamplight City’s creator, Francisco Gonzalez, here -> In Conversation with Grundislav Games