Every now and then a project comes along excelling in particular departments while suffering in others. In the case of Metropolis: Lux Obscura, the artful puzzle-narrative is mostly style with very little substance. Carrying out a mature theme sure has its appeal and mixing that with a good looking comic book art style is a formula worth investigating, but if you’re searching for a fulfilling plot and unbroken gameplay then you’ll come up empty-handed. How it looks seems to be the only good “draw” because excessive vulgarity as your only weapon, along with tacky & cliche scenarios creates an unoriginal experience that has been played out when it had the potential to be as cool as it looks on paper.
Metropolis: Lux Obscura is every bit a Match-3 puzzle game much as it is a narrative one. In-between the puzzle portions are wonderfully drawn stills which make proper use of character fade-ins, panning and texts in a noire/modern gangster mixture that works pretty well. All of which is accompanied by mostly decent voice acting and sound effects such as footsteps & rain. You play as Jon Lockhart, who recently became a free man after being locked up in the pen for supposed murder of a friend. If you’ve seen many films depicting person who get released from jail and have nowhere to turn to then you know it usually ends up with them getting back into the very same criminal activity that put them there in the first place; for the love of money. The Grand Theft Auto series does a great job with its writing and characters with personality, but none of that is found here. While I’m not expecting a small budget studio to create a massive & cinematic experience such as GTA, I do expect interesting plot elements and likable characters that I can count on a couple of fingers for a game reliant on a narrative experience. It’s what creates the drive to even experience the other half entirely focused on gameplay.
There is one redeeming trait about Jon’s character and that is his attitude of giving no Fux Obscura personality, albeit generic. Though he still wants to do things his way, he ends up taking on orders for pay which ends up in a fight in the form of Match-3. This does take a little bit of its own approach here. Players are able to slide one piece entirely vertically or horizontally from where it is placed as opposed to swapping positions with the piece next to it. This provides the entire board accessible assuming that there is a chance for a match. You are able to drag a piece essentially anywhere on and even off the screen for some reason, but the line of accepted movement is always highlighted. Touch screen input is an option and by far the best way to play. When playing with a controller, the cursor on edge pieces oddly lock into place whether by an extra button input in that direction or something else. It requires the same extra input out of that spot which makes it feel unnecessarily clunky. I’ve also noticed a bug where after my combination of matches disappeared that more pieces didn’t fall into place and empty spaces remained on the map requiring me to start over. Having done so, quickly skipping the cutscenes I’ve already watched just to get to the same battle crashed my game.
Depending on the battle, you might fight up to 4 individuals consecutively or just 1. Some may take their shot at you after every 4 of your turns and cause a lot of damage or you may fight someone who will attack you after at just 1 turn. Whenever you are victorious there are a set of 4 random perks to choose from which also have more effective versions of themselves if you’ve already chosen them. These perks may provide more health from med-kits or do stronger blows when using your fists. Chaining at least 3 police badges will inflict damage on yourself so there’s also a perk to reduce the amount of them showing up or even change all of them to rage pieces in certain circumstances. Matching rage pieces increases your aggro allowing you to build up 1.25x or even 1.5x your attack power.
The map shows you where you’ll need to head next and a location mostly for story bits will stay open if you haven’t visited it, but usually it’s 1 or 2 spots of interest.
The story does allow for some player choice making it not completely linear in what you’ll see next, but the change is minimal. There are multiple endings. They’re just not worth going through. The game is rather short with the story leading to no pay off at all. This does encourage multiple sessions of play to experience everything in it’s entirety. It’s rather underwhelming, however. A typical plot that goes badda-bing badda-bang… you’re outta there. It feels like it was Episode 1 out of 10; not that there’s that many endings, either. A short experience is fine, but it’s a completely wasted potential. Perks are fun, but they hardly matter when they didn’t get the time it deserved to be of noticeable effect when earning higher ranks. It’s a shame, too. The art is good stuff. It’s only brought down due to poor writing. No thrilling narrative. No suspense. No love interest. All of the females have been made out to be either shamed or there for erotic purposes, which are is a lot of. You see, this game seems to be created for those looking for mindless entertainment involving busty nipples and f-bombs dropped left and right. They can typically be enjoyed in any form of entertainment, but it doesn’t stand very strong all on its own.