Indigo Prophecy:
First Impressions

By Shamus
on May 21, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I have a recurring nightmare. It does not appear often. I can recall it happening only three times, but the memory is potent. Nothing takes its toll on my sanity quite as bad as the dream where I suddenly seem to have killed somebody.

Indigo Prophecy, a guide to murder.
My subconscious will drop me into a dream where I’ve just committed a bloody murder and I have to deal with the consequences. It is not the inevitable punishment that terrifies me, but the ghastly permanence of the deed. I never make any attempt to escape justice in these dreams, but they usually don’t last long enough for the police to arrive anyway. It’s over in a just a minute or two when I wake up filled with anguish and flirting with a heart attack.

I bring this up because this is how Indigo Prophesy begins. Lucas Kane finds himself in a restaurant bathroom, draped over the bloody remains of a man he’s obviously just murdered. Lucas doesn’t know why he did it. Or what it means. His first thought is escape.

This was a powerful opening to the game, as I was immediately drawn into Lucas’ plight. The player is given an unprecedented degree of freedom in how they can react to this situation. The only thing you must do is wash off the blood before leaving the bathroom. Hide the body? The murder weapon? Clean up the blood? Look for clues? Go out and finish your meal? Dash out without paying? Go out the back?

These decisions matter, because the next stage of the game has you revisit the diner, this time as the detectives investigating the murder. That is, you will be investigating all the stuff you just did while controlling Lucas. The first act follows this revolving chessboard idea. You play as Lucas, and then you switch sides and play the cops chasing him.

A lot has been said about the failings of the plot later in the game, but the important thing to note here is that this is some of the most innovative gameplay I’ve seen in years. The plot is intriguing. The gameplay is compelling. The action sequences are tolerable. The voice acting and motion capture are top-notch. The dialog is authentic.

Most of what I have to say about the rest of the game will be negative, but the truth is that if the developer puts out another game along these lines I will buy it without hesitation. The fact that they tried something so unconventional is praiseworthy enough, and the first act of Indigo Prophesy proves that the idea itself is sound, even if they failed in the execution before the end. This game makes a lot of mistakes. The third act is almost comical in the way it manages to fail in every single way the first act succeeded. But the idea presented in the first scene is still a good one, and I’d hate to see it forgotten because of the package in which it came.

The opening scenes of the game are worth checking out. I’ll temper this suggestion by adding that you really will want to be holding a gamepad when you do so. The controls do not lend themselves to keyboard & mouse. You can play using the keyboard, if you like, in the same way that you can dig a trench with a pitchfork if you’re motivated enough.

You interact with the world via mouse thumbstick gestures, making decisions about how your current character will behave and what they say to other people. I really enjoyed the gestures, except for the climbing parts of the game where it was used to add “challenge”.

You must also manage the mental state of your three characters. When traumatic stuff happens the character will lose a bit of mental stability. Success and comfort will restore it. If a character bottoms out they commit suicide – game over. This is really only a problem for Lucas, who is dealing with the aftermath of the murder, the threat of arrest, freaky visions, bad health, and a couple of dysfunctional relationships. The guy is a mess, and you have to be careful if you don’t want him to implode on you. Carla and Tyler – the two detectives chasing him – have their own problems, but they seem so minor compared to what Lucas is dealing with that it seems almost insulting for them to have their own sanity meters.

Once in a while the game will give you an action sequence. A pair of Simon Says circles appears on-screen. You move the thumbsticks (or, if you’re a masochist, press the keyboard buttons) in the directions indicated and your little avatar will proceed to kick butt and take names. The sequences are pretty exciting, which is a shame since you miss them while staring fixedly at your Simon Says circles. Have a friend over so that while you’re waggling the sticks they can enjoy the sequence on your behalf.

A lot of people liked these action events. I found them to be more of an annoyance. Without them, this would be the closest thing to a playable drama we’ve ever seen. I’m interested in Indigo Prophesy not for the game it is, but for the game it could have been. Perhaps even for the game they nearly made by accident.

(We would like to apologize in advance for the infantile nature of today’s comic. Thank you. – mgmt. )

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20201Feeling chatty? There are 41 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Rebecca says:

    That sounds really cool and not lame at all!

  2. Picador says:

    Agreed on almost all counts. This is the game I point to when screaming about the complete lack of originality in the game industry: “why have there been 25 shooters set on biomechanical alien spaceships in the last 5 years, all with identical play styles, but only one game that tries something new?”

    The final act is, as you say, almost comical in its incoherence, which is too bad because the first half is so well done. And the action sequences, while they do a good job of raising the player’s cognitive load and making him feel engaged in a high-stakes drama, do distract you so much from the visuals that it’s hard to know exactly how the game is portraying the results of your button-mashing.

    I did have one quibble with the voice-acting: the black cop is clearly voiced by a white guy, and the character is a bit of a shuckin’-and-jivin’ stereotype. That being said, it’s not too bad, and the developers should get some slack for 1) being French (the French are weird about black people), and 2) at least having a playable black character in the game who is an actual human being. (How many video games feature a playable black character? Okay, now how many portray that character as something other than an inhuman badass or a robot? If you know of even one, please speak up in the comments.)

  3. Oddly enough, I just had a dream last night that I met YOU – Shamus!

    I’m not kidding. I really did.

    You seem like a very nice guy with whom I share a lot of the same likes/dislikes/frustrations in gaming.

    (And I would soooo like to have you as my GM! My current D&D GM is a bit lame. All of his NPCs are cardboard cut-outs. And they’re all MEN. Grrrr…)

    Leslee

    PS I know this entry has little to do with your above topic, but I just needed to share.

  4. Froody says:

    From what I’ve heard, this game was originally planned to be released in two parts. The decision not do so apparently came very late, so the second half of the game was pretty rushed – and sadly, you really notice that, as you said, Shamus. Not sure if that’s true, but I think it would explain a lot.

    Still, this is one of my favorite games just for the sheer originality of many of its aspects.

  5. Chris Arndt says:

    Isn’t Spider-Man a black character?

    I mean I read in a magazine once that that is why he has a full body suit and a full face mask so that kids can identify with him and see him as everybody.

    What a load of crap.

    Rookie One in Star Wars Rebel Assault was black, but pale.

    No?

    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine games have a black guy in command and playable. So there.

    Star Trek Armada has a Klingon played by a black dude.
    That’s it.

  6. Coldstone says:

    Barret from Final Fantasy 7.

  7. Gahaz says:

    The last act was such a let down! I loved almost every moment this game gave me! Then everything turned around, its like the devs were weaving this story and realized they were running out of room on the disk.

    “Then Lucas will freak out in his apartment and run outside…”

    “Guys, we have to wrap this up now, the disk only has room for another hour at the most.”

    “Wha?..um…Did you guys ever see Dragonball Z?”

    “Ooo, what about the Matrix?”

    In response to Picador

    I have a black gentlemen as my level 50 Paladin alt on Warcraft, that count?

  8. Eric Meyer says:

    Okay, I can’t help but ask: is it “Prophecy” or “Prophesy”? Because I see both used in the posts and comments so interchangeably that I’m starting to black out.

  9. lebkin says:

    I agree with most everything. It is an amazing game. I even enjoyed the “Simon Says” parts. My only complaint was the “back and forth as fast as you can” sequences; they were simply unfun. I actually played through it twice, once as Fahrenheit on my PC and once as Indigo Prophecy on my PS2.

    “Okay, I can’t help but ask: is it Prophecy or Prophesy?”

    In this case, it should be Indigo Prophecy. Prophecy is the noun. Prophesy is the verb. “The prophet prophesied that the prophecy would come true.” This tidbit of knowledge was brought to you by the fine folks at Dictionary.com

  10. Cuthalion says:

    @Eric Meyer:

    “Prophecy” is the noun. As in, “No prophecy ever came through the will of man.”

    “Prophesy” is the verb. As in, “Prophesy against Ninevah, that great city.”

    (Double-checked in my dictionary just now: apparently both of them can be a noun, but only “prophesy” can be a verb. What I wrote is how it is in my Bible, I think…)

    Edit: Oops! lebkin beat me to the answer with a better example.

  11. Dys says:

    I played this one when I was looking through steam games to kill some time with. It is a very good game, aside from the whole originality thing. I’ll have to take what you said about the final act on faith though as when I reach the helicopter section of the chase, the game slows so badly it’s quite impossible to pass.

    Several seconds of frozen screen + simon says gameplay = fail.

  12. Arthur says:

    I didn’t like the action sequences either; my problem was that I had to concentrate on the Simon bit so much that I couldn’t actually watch what was unfolding on screen, because I was focusing on the lights so much.

    They’re also mildly inconsistent as to when you can break out the whup-ass – so, you can run from an epic number of cops when they swing by your apartment, but you can’t jump one fat beat cop when he discovers what you did in the bathroom? The hell?

  13. Shamus says:

    Leslee: I met James Lileks in a dream once. Always strange when your brain does that to you.

  14. Shamus says:

    Eric: Prophecy is correct. My fingers want to type PropheSy and my spell checker doesn’t seem to care when I do, which is why you’re seeing both.

    EDIT: Ah. Lebkin explains why the spellcheck accepts both. I did not know this until now. Who knows how many times I’ve used the wrong one. Glad it’s not a word I use often.

  15. Shamus says:

    Dys: You stopped at the perfect time. It was all downhill from there.

  16. Nilus says:

    So are we going to get another post about why the ending was so bad. I played a bit of this game but then stopped(don’t recall why) would love to hear how it ended.

  17. Kritheon says:

    I just got done with the game as well. Loved the originality, loved the story (going back in time was cool), liked the graphics, hated trying to look through the simon says stuff and watch the scene unfold, hated the dramatically cut short ending, oh ya…definitely hated the climbing (useless).

    A won’t talk about the ending because I hate spoolers, but it should have been better.

    I’d give it 7.5 out of 10. And for $10 on steam, you can’t miss.

  18. Alan De Smet says:

    I hate Simon Says or Quick Time Events minigames. I have
    never seen them done well. At best they are not too
    offensive.

    Inevitably they take a game that normally gives me lots of
    freedom, and replaces it with a railroad. There is one and only
    one valid way forward. I frequently find myself in situations I
    could have easily avoided if I still had full control. Control
    has been taken away from me in the name of cool.

    Fundamentally these are simplistic rhythm games. I’m not
    against rhythm games, but if I want to play a rhythm game I own
    several better ones. I know where my copies of Dance Dance
    Revolution
    , Guitar Hero, and Rock Band
    are, thank you very much. It’s not the gameplay I signed up for.
    I signed up for a third person shooter (Resident Evil
    4
    ), or an adventure game (Shenmue), or a first
    person shooter (Call of Duty 3), and suddenly I’m
    playing a very different game.

    They are, of course, inevitably poorly implemented. Look at
    the good rhythm games, like the ones I mentioned above. They all
    have nuance, it’s about learning to minimize your motion, to get
    into a groove, learning to read and handle the incoming movements
    without ever thinking about it. Missing a single beat, or even a
    few, isn’t fatal. You can squeek through a difficult section and
    feel proud that you’re pushing your own limits. Properly done
    this is awesome gameplay. These game inevitably get it wrong.
    You don’t play the Simon Says game long enough or frequently
    enough to build up skill. You’re not presented with future
    actions in advance so you can learn to read ahead. Missing a
    single button is usually failure, requiring replaying the entire
    sequence. It’s garbage.

    So why is this crap being shoved places it doesn’t belong?
    Because the game’s control system doesn’t allow you to integrate
    some particular form of Cool, typically a complex scene
    intertangling opponents and environment. But as Shamus notes,
    it’s a complete failure. The player is focused on a small part
    of the screen. To play as well as possible, they need to
    specifically not look at the cool. For a good rhythm game this
    is okay; the rewards are audio, or just the pleasure of getting
    into the groove. “I just full comboed ‘Drop the Bomb’ on Expert
    in DDR” is satisfying. “I mashed the triggers and got
    to keep playing COD 3” isn’t.

    Simon Says gameplay sucks. It was a neat idea in Dragon’s
    Lair
    , but it was and remains fundamentally flawed.

    (I will note that some game have Simon Says-like gameplay that
    works. Two examples that leap to mind are God of War
    and Kingdom Hearts II. Both games get a few important
    things right:
    the
    gameplay pops up mid-fight and is smoothly integrated, you use
    the gameplay frequently throughout the game and will achieve
    skill in it,
    failure just means you miss an opportunity for awesome but you
    still keep going forward.)

  19. Alan De Smet says:

    (Sorry for the mangled formatting; I wrote that in an external editor and forgot to concatenate the lines within a given paragraph together when I pasted it in.)

  20. Nate says:

    In perfect truth, I felt the Simon Says gameplay of Indigo wasn’t nearly so bad as it could have been, for a couple of reasons.

    First, the mechanic does come up quite a lot, giving you ample chance for practice. Second, the first sequences when it occurs all give you leeway for failure; you may miss cool points, but one mistake will seldom end you. Third, there is an opportunity (it’s been a little while, so i forgot exactly when) fairly near the beginning, when you can sit down and practice the mechanic in a simple, audio-reward setting with no penalty for failure.

    That said, I objected to not being able to see the results of my skillz because I was too busy cencentrating on the little lights. Almost worse was when I did see some particularly cool thing as a result of my later-game actions… and it distracted me… and I hence missed an input and got flattened.

    Indigo Prophecy was a good game with a ratty ending and some mechnical problems. That seems to be the prevailing opinion thus far; I’m glad people seem to share it with me.

  21. Dolleater says:

    I played this game aswell, with my girlfriend watching it the whole time and discussing what to do next in the game, it was probably the most fun we both had while playing a game together now that i think of it.

    Granted that the last act is kinnda so-and-so but the fact that you get so pulled into the story is just something so rare for a videogame.

    I kinnda liked the action-sequences it still satisfied a gamer-need without slowing the “movie” feeling of the game down. btw i played it on keyboard, took awhile to get a hang of but after that worked smoothly. However ive liked other game implementations of action-sequences, most notably God of War 2 and Resident Evil 4, so that they would be bad in general i strongly disagree on. It adds a little spice to a cut-scene and keeps you on your toes. It also retains the pace of the gameplay, instead of putting down the controller and observing.

    I still remember those cut-scenes with action-sequences in resident evil 4, it probably made them MORE memorabel if anything.

  22. Davesnot says:

    Usually if you kill someone in a dream.. it represents killing a part of you.. or overcoming a part of you.. or wanting to overcome part of you.. and the person you kill.. usually represents that part of you killed or in need of it..

    Sometimes the where is key too.. buildings tend to represent yourself.. School.. maybe your past self.. or learning self.. Home.. current self.. relationship self.. Work (even though you work at home) business self.. etc..

    So.. what personality or thing do you assosiate whom you kill.. and where do you do it.. think about that.. and maybe your dream will help you..and maybe go away?

  23. theonlymegumegu says:

    I have to agree with you totally about Indigo Prophecy. I played it on the Xbox back when it first came out, as I was intrigued by the description of the opening scene when I first heard about it. It really is worth playing up until the point the story gets ridiculous, as everything prior to that is so engaging.

  24. Ben says:

    About the blood: you DON’T have to wash it off. I have succesfully run off in a bloody mess scaring everyone half to death before.

  25. Zerotime says:

    Picador: Xavier Jones from Clive Barker’s Jericho. He completely trumps the stereotype by being the most useless and bland character in the game.

  26. Ian says:

    Ironically enough, a friend of mine told me about this game this past weekend (including the fact that the last half is baaaaad). I noticed that it’s up for download in Xbox Live (for 1200 Microsoft points, I think…about $15), so I think I’ll give it a go on there (mostly thanks to the opening paragraph of this review).

  27. Nilus says:

    Zerotime. Wasn’t everyone in Jericho Bland and pretty much useless.

    And to respons to Ian. Am I the only one tired of Consoles using bizarre point systems for your online purchase. Why can’t they just say 15 bucks, instead of 1200 points, which is 15 bucks worth. But of course they don’t just let you buy 1200 points, you need to buy 1500 points. I hate that BS.

  28. Anders says:

    Ah, yes. I have a very strong memory of the climbing action sequence sucking rather much and the whole missing the actually action because you’re stuck focusing on the Simon Says-circles was something I remember being annoyed by. Wish there had been a mode to replay them afterwards just showing how you did it.

    I always assumed that the quirks, and the really cool new way the game was taken, all was because the people doing it where artists first and game designers second which made for a cool game with some serious flaws.

    And Nilus, maybe it is cause about 75% of all console owners don’t use dollars? They would have to have made an automatic currency converter or made up a easy point system. Guess which way they took?

  29. Miral says:

    As I said over here, the keyboard controls suck less if you remap them. But it does still play better with a gamepad, even so. (Having said that, I actually have faster reactions with the [remapped] keyboard, so for the hardest action sequences I switched *to* the keyboard…)

    And yes, I wish there was some way to replay the action sequences so you can watch what you’re doing rather than having to watch for buttons to press. Still, I guess that’s what video capture programs (and YouTube) are for :)

    One of the other weird things about them though (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) is that you actually have to fail one of the sequences about a third of the way into the game. Still, you get enough warning about it, as long as you’re paying attention, so it’s not really a bad thing.

  30. Allen says:

    Oh my gosh this game…
    So, I started playing it on the fact that Shamus seems to like it, or, at least, the first part. But I started playing it at 1 in the morning after just waking up. Fun.
    Atmospheric, much. I was getting really antsy while looking for that damned key.

  31. mister k says:

    There is anohter huge flaw in this game that most people do not encounter because… well because they played the game better than me. In one scene in the office, no matter how well you do in the simon says section, lucas loses a lot of sanity. So if your sanity is too low then it’s game over. Whats more, the closest section in which you are able to gain decent amount of sanity is absolutely age back! Luckily my friend had played it through so I was able to use his save, but I was very tempted to give up at that point.

  32. Pidmon says:

    I’ve watched the Let’s Play of this game… it really falls down, and hard. I liked the meme the goons came up with, though. Old ladies are…

  33. Allen says:

    Also, I wish, I REALLY wish that the bloody game would let me use the PS3’s Sixaxis controller with it. When I plug it in, the game slows down to less than a frame per second, and stalls on the title screen. Makes me sadface. As soon as I unplug the bloody thing it works smooth, puts on an innocent face, and pretends nothing happened.

  34. Zerotime says:

    Nilus: Yeah, but he was the worst of the lot because of his essentially non-existent abilities.

  35. ArchU says:

    Inspiring approach. I recall the sanity metre from Eternal Darkness resulting in some quirky moments in the game.

    Also time to nitpick: “prophecy” or “prophesy”? (It’s also misspelled in the tags for this entry.) Whee, how anal-retentive of me.

  36. Nihil says:

    Actually, I didn’t find Fahrenheit annoying at all to play with mouse and keyboard (for SS events I’d just move the right hand to the keyboard, in the IJKL position to parallel WASD).

    So far, the only game I actually had to pull out my old MS Sidewinder out for was Lego Star Wars. That one is a total PITA without a continuous directional control.

  37. Miral says:

    @MisterK: “In one scene in the office, no matter how well you do in the simon says section, lucas loses a lot of sanity.”

    Actually the better you do the more sanity you lose. That’s the one I was referring to earlier that you need to fail :)

  38. Ben says:

    I liked the game, but the stealth section was so hard I just gave up. The one thing that bugged me was the graphic sex scene. Totally unneccessary and just embarrassed everyone concerned. Why was it even in the game? I’m relaxing, playing some guitar for my girlfriend, then suddenly I’m controlling polygon sex?!

  39. GaGrin says:

    Only if you got yourself into that situation. Its more than possible to tell your ex-gf to fuck off after you get her boxes.

    And to be honest, I’m hugely impressed that they were artisticly sound enough to put that in. Sex shouldn’t be less acceptable than violence – thats really just backward thinking.

    What I *DO* object to is…

    SPOILER ALERT
    Being unable to keep Lucas’s pants on around the Cop (can’t remember her name). I could see that coming a mile off and I hated that I couldn’t turn her down. Of course thats in the latter part of the game so its already going downhill at this point. Seriously, who makes love to a guy below room temperature?!
    /SPOILER END

  40. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Just played the game for a bit.And I didnt find the controls to be that hard to master(binding them to WSAD and the numpad).Sure,this one couldve been imported better by switching simon says sections to be mouse gestures,but it works like this too.

    What I do find extremelly annoying is the camera.This one couldve(and shouldve)been done a lot better.

    As for the censorship,I find it extremelly funny that a game starting with a brutal murder scene full of blood has its rating questioned just because of a sex scene.Thats why I love europe!

  41. Simplex says:

    Just for statistics sake – I finished the game twice using mouse and keyboard and did not find it prohibitively frustrating, but after reading some comments in this and previous entries I am eager to start playing with DualShock plugged in. I hope it won’t slow down my game.

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