Quick Look – Lacuna (#JustOnePercent 40/100)

Developer: DigiTales Interactive
Release Date: May 20, 2021
MSRP: $15.99

Full disclosure: If Lacuna hadn’t been part of the December 2021 Humble Choice, I never would have given it a second look. Although I like detective games in general, I don’t play too many point and click adventures. I’m really not a big fan of pixel graphics, and I really don’t care for reading in a pixel-heavy font. I also tend to avoid sci-fi plots, even if it’s fancied up by a bit of noir. It just didn’t really look like a game that was going to do it for me.

Well, an hour and forty minutes in, and I’ve completed the first act, and had to force myself to stop playing in order to do a Quick Look. I guess that’s what I get for making assumptions and putting things off until the last minute.

After a short prologue (which I really really hope has more relevance later), you are put into the shoes of CDI Agent Neil Conrad, who is pretty much a typical noir protagonist in a futuristic world. Your agency has been tasked with protecting a diplomat, and while you are off-shift, you get a call telling you he’s been assassinated in the villa where he was staying. You rush over to meet up with your partner Gary to try to figure out what happened and who is behind it all.

As you examine evidence, interview witnesses, and draw conclusions, your cell will be invaluable. Not only does it store a log of everyone you talk to, and every clue you examine, it’s also where you submit your findings via multiple choice sheets. Getting to the right answer should be simple enough, provided you don’t miss anything, which could be easy to do depending on the choices you make while investigating.

Of course, the interface also provides some clues to the player as well as the player character. If you’ve missed a clue somewhere, you’ll see a question mark in your interface, indicating that you haven’t quite found everything you should be looking at.

I personally wasn’t overly invested in the big story, but if you are, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the world by downloading news stories from terminals. However, I was hooked on the smaller stories, and the moral quandaries Agent Conrad finds himself in at just about every step of the investigating. I’m not sure if you get all the clues regardless of whether you decide to follow your heart, or just follow protocol, but whatever path you choose, you’ll be committed to it. Lacuna has a single autosave system, so there’s no going back if you feel like you might have missed something.

That’s a quirk I thought I would really dislike, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere and the feeling of actually being a part of a high stakes investigation. Save points are frequent enough that they won’t make you feel as if you’re being held hostage, but with a three act structure, and a story that is likely to last somewhere around 5 hours, I’m not sure how eager I would be to dive in for a replay. Multiple play throughs look mandatory, however, if you’re chasing achievements, as some seem to be completely contradictory based on binary choices.

In ditching some of the more irritating pieces of traditional point and click adventure games, Lacuna makes sure that the game play elements don’t get in the way of the story, and I can respect that.

It’s definitely an interesting take on the adventure game formula, and the detective gameplay is compelling enough (if not overly challenging). It’s listed as being playable on the Steam Deck, so I may finish up the story that way, provided I don’t find the pixel-font too difficult on the eyes on a smaller screen. I definitely want to see how the story ends, although I don’t anticipate too much difficulty with the whodunnit portion – being thorough should be all that it takes to solve the crime.

SteamDB estimates that Lacuna has sold somewhere between 21,200 and 58,200 copies on Steam. Although I didn’t think I’d care too much for this one, I’m going to join almost 95% of reviewers in giving it a thumbs up. It is ranked 264 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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