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Walking a strange path with its dark story and oddball characters, Lux-Pain is bizarrely compelling. As a graphic novel it suffers from some clunky translation and one-dimension interaction. But the story and characters worked a genuinely moving and dark experience for me. It tackles issues that most videogames wouldn't dare to do and I was drawn back into its world night after night.
It's rare that a game as the ability to get underneath my skin. But Lux-Pain, despite its localisation problems, did exactly that from the very beginning. The main theme is all about investigating and defeating malevolent mental parasites called Silent. But what really affected me was the depth and individual nature of the characters living in Kisaragi City. At first glance they seemed a clichéd array of stereotypes and suffered from some awful writing thanks to the poor localisation. But as I put more time into it the storyline started to reveal some dark and fascinating themes that games rarely approach.
The first instance that got me hooked came with the actual process of identifying the parasites. The mind-eaters are attracted to negative thoughts and uncovering them is a simple process of scratching on the touchscreen. The thoughts then play across the screen. Words drift in and blow away as soon as they form meaning. This fleeting glimpse worked incredibly well at building the tension of the environment. When your DS floats phrases like "I will kill them" or "I have to hurt myself" at you, it has a pretty strong effect.
What really affected me was the depth and individual nature of the characters living in Kisaragi City.
This way of uncovering evidence extends to the reading of minds as well. It's here that the real emotional impact of the game hit me hard. The day to day contact with familiar people brought a few of them closer to me and I really began to care about them. So uncovering their dark intentions or some hidden harrowing memory made it all the more affecting.
The most traumatic moment arrived when I revealed the memory of a knife attack. The implied violence and the way simple words can convey the mortal fear of someone soon to die was a fearsome and moving experience.
Unfortunately the game is undermined by its terrible localisation. On numerous occasions people are referred to as the wrong gender. What are even worse are the simple spelling mistakes that bring you out of the experience completely. Its one-dimensional touchscreen scratching gets repetitive after a while and I was hoping for a bit more variety.
Having the DS tell me a story, putting words and images into my mind so they stayed there was a refreshing experience compared to most games.
These faults come close to ruining a great game. It's a testament to the world that's been created that I couldn't help but overlook them. Although it plays more like a graphic novel than a game it loses nothing in depth or impact with this approach. Having the DS tell me a story, putting words and images into my mind so they stayed there was a refreshing experience compared to most games.
The characters and story hung around my head for days and I began to think about what was going to happen to them when I wasn't playing. I began to fear for the relationships I'd built and although the world of Kisaragi City was oddly compelling, I was almost afraid to take the story forward in case something terrible happened.
I'll admit that Lux-Pain won't appeal to everyone. It took me a good three hours before I could honestly say I knew what was going on. But its languid pace makes the turn of events carry so much more weight than other games. Just like a translated classic, Lux-Pain was awkward to read at times but it ultimately became a very rewarding experience.
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