Something new, something different...
Indigo Prophecy (a.k.a. Fahrenheit) doesn’t interact with the gamer as we’re used to; neither it’s an adventure like the ones we’re used to, nor it includes action elements like the ones we’re used to. It’s unique! And it proves that from the very beginning, with the long talks and arguments it fired up just a couple of days after its release.
Is it an adventure game? Is it an action game? Or is it an action-adventure game? First of all we’re to make clear (if possible) the genre under which it should be placed. Atari labels it as an adventure on the official site and at the same time as an action-adventure on the game’s cover (Are they confused? I wonder why...). The majority of PC gamers have labeled it as an action-adventure. Some say it’s an unconventional action game and others say it’s an innovating adventure. To be honest with you, I personally can’t place it under any of those categories. I can’t consider a game to be an adventure when it only includes one or two puzzles. In fact, even the couple of puzzles that do exist are questionable. At the same time, I cannot consider it an action game since it does not demand the gamer to have direct control of the character. Is it then a combination of both, an action-adventure? How is this possible if it’s neither an adventure nor an action game solely? So, what is it? I’m afraid I can’t give you the answer to that. I honestly find it impossible to categorize Indigo Prophecy. It’s something new, something different; that’s for sure! Maybe it’s just what the director says in the tutorial: a game that you watch as if it were a movie. You only participate in it by helping your character to move, seeking and hiding evidence, and unfolding the story. Maybe it would be better if everyone came up with their own conclusions as far as ‘what kind of game Indigo Prophecy is’.
However, regardless how you label it, a detail that doesn’t really interest anyone, Indigo Prophecy offers an unconventional experience to gamers. We control three main characters. We choose how each character will act, affecting the difficulty of the other characters’ missions. We seek evidence, we try to find out the truth about what is really happening, and at the same time we come across many action-like elements. We try to keep our characters’ mental status at a high level even though we’re under time pressure.
In how many games have you actually seen so many elements combined together so seamlessly? In how many games do you have the freedom of choice (or at least the illusion of having it)? These are the most important aspects of Indigo Prophecy. It’s unique and refreshing and it makes you feel in control of your future!
Lucas Kane, whose arms are covered in blood, is in the restroom of a diner holding a knife. He’s having a vision; a young girl reaching for help. He’s having spasms. He now sees a secret ritual in his vision. His eyes turn white. His vision continues and he sees another man. Like a zombie, he walks towards a stranger that happens to be in the restroom; a stranger who is at the wrong place at the wrong time. The man in Lucas’ vision carries out the exact same movements as he does. Lucas kills the unsuspecting stranger, loyally following the movements of the man in his vision. Three stabs around the heart. The stranger dies. Lucas snaps out of his trance. He has full consciousness and self-control again. What happened? Was it not just a dream? Did he actually kill that man? How did this happen? Why?
Later on, two cops, Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles of the homicide department, arrive at the scene of the crime. They’re informed about a client that left the diner just before the body was discovered. They investigate the place. They talk with the waitress. They scout the suspect’s table. They thoroughly examine the body and the crime scene. They try to gather as much evidence as possible in order to figure out the murderer’s identity. Who is he? What is his relation to the victim? Why did he kill the victim so brutally?
As the story of Indigo Prophecy unfolds, a simple murder case thickens and gains a different essence. Lucas is not the murderer and yet he has killed a stranger. Carla and Tyler find out there have been similar murders in the past that were never solved, even though the murderer was tracked down. In the meantime, New York’s temperature is inexplicably dropping to dangerous levels. Somehow the Mayan culture and artificial intelligence is connected to the murders. How do the different threads merge and where do they lead us? Each and every one of us is going to see a somehow different story...
The story progresses in a non-linear fashion, offering players a truly remarkable number of alternative approaches. There is a set course we have to follow, but all the details are non-linear and depend on our previous actions and decisions. When playing Lucas, will we hide the evidence before we leave the crime scene and make Carla and Tyler’s mission more difficult? When playing the detectives, will we uncover the evidence left in the crime scene or ignore some that we already know will expose Lucas right away? When talking to other characters, will we be honest, diplomatic, direct, friendly or hostile towards them? Are we going to help others in need? Which is the best choice to achieve our goals? During your Indigo Prophecy experience each decision is yours to make. But be careful, even the smallest decision might have important consequences.
Puzzles - Controls:
There are no puzzles (at least in their conventional form) in this game. We only come across one or two puzzles during the game, but they are so easy and obvious to solve that it’s really questionable whether they could actually be considered as such. Puzzles have been replaced by the innovating and rather unusual interface we encounter in this game. From our characters’ movement to the dialogue system Indigo Prophecy is a novelty. Even though, I had no serious problems in this aspect of the game (well, if you don’t take into account the thumb-aching I had for a couple of hours), many are complaining that Indigo Prophecy’s controls are quite complicated and therefore hard to manage not only in the action sequences but in the camera control as well. The truth is that this is a game an action gamer would find manageable and an adventure gamer would have a rather hard time playing. So, I’d suggest, to strictly-adventure-gamers who intent to try their hands on this game, to do so with the valuable help of a game pad, as to avoid a nervous breakdown. In any case, it would be a good idea if you dedicated a few minutes to the helpful tutorial narrated by the director of Indigo Prophecy, David Cage.
Let’s go over the stormy petrel of this game that caused so many arguments among gamers. First of all, I should mention that we encounter three basic ‘interface types’ in the action sequences: straight or (semi)round movement that we have to carry out with one of our pad’s thumbsticks (or with our mouse), rapid alternate left and right movements that we have to carry out with two of our pad’s buttons (or the keyboard’s arrow keys) and finally, random up-down-left-right movements that we have to carry out with both our pad’s thumbsticks (or the keyboard arrow keys and four more buttons).
Do they seem too many and too complicated? Actually they’re not! And that’s because in no time do we have to carry out a movement without being fully guided. In all three cases, the game shows us exactly what we should do, precisely which button we should press, specifically which movement we should carry out. It’s actually a “Simon says” kind of game. We even have several ‘lives’, so that, in case we make a mistake, we won’t have to replay the whole sequence from the very beginning. Let’s see an example of the third and most difficult action sequel we will encounter (to make it easier to visualize, just take a quick look at the screenshot on the right). Two circles appear on our screen and each of them has a color in each direction (up=red, left= blue, down=green and right=yellow). Those colors light up randomly and we have to follow them by moving the thumbstick in the correct direction (or by pressing the assigned button). When the blue on the left lights up, for example, we only have to move the left thumbstick to the left (or press the left arrow). The challenging part is that we must move fast. So, if you think you can play Indigo Prophecy while smoking your cigarette or drinking your coffee, you are in for a surprise! You’ll have to wait until your characters find themselves in a calm situation to be able to have a sip. When they’ll be anxious or vigil, so will you. In this game we are to live the adventure along with our characters, not just lazily watch them while being relaxed.
Thus, we arrive at our characters’ mental status, which by the way is a very important element of Indigo Prophecy’s gameplay. All three payable characters have a mental status bar, that starts from neutral (well, don’t expect them to be happy with all that’s happening!) and works its way down to overwrecked. If we end up in the lower level, we lose. Be very careful though! Every now and again certain inevitable events will occur (visions for Lucas, Tarot for Carla, quarrel with the girlfriend for Tyler, tiredness for all characters, etc) that will automatically drop your mental status a great deal. You always have to keep the mental status high, if you don’t want to come across any unpleasant surprises. And that’s not difficult at all. You just have to explore the surrounding area to find out the actions that will offer satisfaction to your character (eating, drinking, listening to music, find or hide evidence, etc). Note, however, that certain actions -hidden among the elevating ones- have the exact opposite result and will drop your mental status even further. For instance, Lucas’s mental status will drop if he watches on TV that the police are on his trail. Nonetheless, the things that affect mental status are all logical and shouldn’t give you a hard time. All you have to do is think fast and then act.
Since I mentioned ‘think fast’, it is worth noting that fast reactions are required throughout the whole game. Even in its dialogues (didn’t we say that there’s no time for coffee or smoking?). When we start a dialogue, our options, appear on the top of the screen as a dialog tree. From that point forward, we have very little time to read the given words (not sentences) and to decide which question we’d like to ask. Remember when I said that this game’s goal is to force us to share with our characters their anxiety and live this adventure? Well, how could we possibly do that if we had all the time we wanted to choose what we’re going to ask?
Of course, as any innovating system, this too contains some severe problems. Originally -and in theory- the aim obviously was to have the directional controls coincide with what’s on screen and to immerse players in New York’s imaginary reality psychosomatically. But the result is not quite as expected. What initially seemed exciting quickly gave way to annoyance and confusion, because concentrating on the action sequences makes it impossible to focus on the story. You’re way too busy following the lightened colours that you have no time to pay any attention to what the characters are actually saying or doing. Don’t get me wrong though, I'm not criticizing this innovating idea. My complaint is that while it certainly increases our adrenaline levels, it actually cuts off our connection to the story. Another grumble I feel obliged to mention is that the three types of action sequences are invariably repeated throughout the game, leading us to the exclaim: “Please don’t flash the Get Ready message again. I’m tired. Give me a break!”
Graphics - Music:
Indigo Prophecy’s full 3D graphics are not exactly state-of-the-art. However, they still have a quite high degree of quality and aesthetics. From a director’s point of view, it’s like watching a very well-shot action/mystery movie. There are just a couple of cut scenes in the game, since all of the action sequences are playable (in which by the way you will set eyes on some of the best game animations ever).
The background music is a first-rate masterpiece! Amazing songs were selected to match the game’s tone: jazz, blues and ballads. Instrumental soundtracks that were composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who is known as the composer for David Lynch films, simply fascinate and seduce you. It’s not a coincidence that even though I had lots to do and wanted to see how the story would end, I ‘wasted’ time in Lucas apartment just to listen to some of the songs over and over again. The detailed background sounds are also worth noticing. For example, if you close the windows in the house while the stereo is playing, the songs can be heard clearer and without the intersection of the street’s fuss. Nice touch, guys!
I should also mention that all songs we hear throughout Indigo Prophecy, as well as some extra videos and art gallery, are available in the bonus section of the game. To unlock them we have to pay the requested ‘bonus amount’. The necessary bonus bills can be found hidden throughout the game in various spots (kitchen cupboards, house corners, distant roads, etc). You may not be able to unlock all of them at once, but you’ll surely manage to when re-playing the game.
Indigo Prophecy is an innovating and impressive game that because of its novelties will be loved by some and hated by others. Even though it’s rather short (approximately 10 hours), the considerable number alternative paths gives the game satisfactory length. Those who like the game’s ‘first taste’ will certainly want to see more of it and will play it more than once.
The originality of Indigo Prophecy’s interface, the multitude of playable characters, the effect of the actions of one character on the missions of the others, the sublime music background and its director’s prospect are the game’s strengths. On the other hand, the controls (conditionally!) and their unvaried continuity, the complete absence of puzzles and the ending (Matrix-derived ideas are bad for your health) are the weak points.
To conclude, I’d say that it’s a rather remarkable game despite its problems. It’s a game that anyone who considers himself or herself open-minded should try. And when I say anyone please do not get me wrong. I mean anyone over 15. This is not a game for kids, because on one hand it involves some mature topics, and on the other hand this is a thriller, even if it’s more of a psychological experience rather than violent.
This review is based on:
The European version of the game, which has elements that were removed from the American version due to censorship laws.
The PC version of the game, where the controls may cause several problems and hours of thumb-aching.
The final grade is 89/100.
The original Greek version of this article can be found at Adventure Advocate.