Home Reviews Adventure Games Indigo Prophecy (a.k.a Fahrenheit)
Indigo Prophecy (a.k.a Fahrenheit) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doc_Brown   
Friday, 13 January 2006 18:00

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Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Atari
Official Site and Demo
ESRB Mature 17+ (Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Violence) — Standard Version
ESRB Adults Only 18+ (Blood, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Violence) Director's Cut
PEGI 16+ (Game contains depictions of violence, nudity and/or sexual behavior or sexual references)

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A Drop of Time
The moment I knew Indigo Prophecy was something different isn't in the actual game—it's exclusive to the demo. When you first start it up, the game's director and writer David Cage steps out onto the set to establish the mood. It may be nothing new in the world of film, but in videogaming this is a wholly unexpected development. Considering the effort that went into digitizing him, it's a shame his prologue isn't part of the full game as well. It really adds something, and I recommend you give the above-linked demo a try to see it if nothing else.

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A Paranormal Thriller
A line from a trailer for the game says it all: "My name is Lucas Kane, and I am a murderer." Late one snowy night in a little diner in New York City, a man walks into the bathroom and is stabbed repeatedly by Lucas. They don't know each other, nor is there any apparent motive for the crime. As for Lucas, one minute he was sitting at his table quietly enjoying his meal and reading some Shakespeare. The next he's waiting in one of the bathroom stalls, eyes rolled back in his head while he cuts himself with a knife.

It is during the subsequent murder that he gets visions of a hooded figure, surrounded by hundreds of candles, controlling his actions. There's also a strange young girl, glimpsed at the very end, reaching out towards you. But then, just like that, Lucas regains control. And this is where the game begins: in a bathroom with the body of a man you killed yet did not kill, covered in both his and your own blood, and at the risk of being caught at any moment by one of the patrons (one of which is an off duty cop). Who would possibly believe your innocence?

It's a fantastic premise, something like a Dean Koontz novel brought to life, but the storyline goes completely off the rails in the later stages of the game.  Once I found myself fighting giant ectoplasmic ticks—no, it's never explained—I threw up my hands and gave up on the storyline entirely.  And it only gets better from there: defying the laws of gravity, the appearance of rogue Artificial Intelligences... why, there's even a messianic ressurection thrown in for good measure.  It's as if Quantic Dream was trying so hard they blew a fuse.

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Split Personality
Indigo Prophecy is essentially an adventure game, albeit a very unorthodox one. You control several different characters, moving about and interacting with your environment as well as conversing with other characters. The mouse is used to make gestures corresponding to certain choices. For instance, a conversation will offer you a limited amount of time to choose one of four responses, each corresponding to a direction, before choosing one for you. Thankfully, the game is intentionally designed so that you always get the minimum info you need.

The system takes a little getting used to, but works well enough.  The dual analog sticks used for the console versions actually feel more natural than the mouse/keyboard combination, but visually there are much sharper graphics on the PC version. Regardless of which version you choose to play, the game has undeniable style. It will often implement multiple screens to show you events unfolding simultaneously in different locations, such as the cop coming to use the restroom while you're trying to hide the evidence.

On the audio front, the game features both licensed songs and original pieces. Angelo Badalamenti, whose work you may have heard at the movies, even contributed a few songs, and the game's core soundtrack is a hauntingly fitting theme. Voice acting varies, with excellent work by the leads (Lucas in particular is wonderful as a desperate man trying to prove his innocence) along with some more questionable choices for lesser characters (an old lady, for instance, is very obviously voiced by a young woman).

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Action-Adventure
In addition to your standard adventure game fare, Indigo Prophecy also includes a few action elements. There is, for example, a stamina bar that comes into play for those instances where the characters are really exerting themselves. The game simulates this by having you alternately mash buttons, and while it's easy enough to do early on, later segments in the game will really tax you. This mini-game is quite a bit easier on the PC compared to the consoles, as the left and right arrow keys are less stressful to wail on than the shoulder buttons.

There are also segments where you must play a rhythm game. Two rings appear on the screen, and each one will flash in one of four directions. Using the directional keys and the number pad (or the analog sticks on the consoles), you have to follow along as best you can. Naturally, the console controls are better for these, as the movements feel much more fluid than with the admittedly more static keys. This mini-game is obviously used for action sequences, but is also used during conversations. Correctly following along will offer insights into what the characters are thinking.

While these two mini-games make up most of the gameplay, there are several others that crop up from time to time. Some are variants, such as controlling your breathing or balance with the stamina bar system. Others are unique, such as going to a firing range or sneaking about undetected. The latter, I must note, are a real pain, so much so that I quickly referenced a walkthrough just so I could get back to the good stuff. They would have been better off leaving those out entirely, as they may cause some to quit in frustration.

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Choices and Consequences
Frustation is a good word for describing Indigo Prophecy.  The game simply fails to capitalize on its tremendous potential.  For instance, Lucas is not the only playable character.  You also get to control a pair of detectives, Carla and Tyler, who have been assigned to the diner murder.  This sets up a fascinating dynamic wherein you're doing everything you can to escape as Lucas while likewise doing everything you can to catch him as the others.  It's a shame more isn't done with the idea, which eventually just peters out. 

As another example, the game implements a sort of stress system.  Now to be fair, I love the way you can boost your mental health with simple, comforting, everyday actions like getting something to drink or splashing some water on your face. But while you can suffer a mental breakdown if you play it right, your sanity should have played a much larger role in the plot. For a man who killed someone and suspects he was possessed, Lucas never really doubts his own sanity.  The stress system has promise, but it never really figures much in the actual story.

There are other areas of the game that could have used some work, too. Control for your character and the camera, for instance, is a bit spotty, and sometimes the mini-games just feel out of place where a cutscene would have been more than sufficient.  Having to concentrate on entering the correct pattern while an action scene is going on in the background is counterintuitive, since you can't win the game if you're watching the cinemas and you can't enjoy the cinemas if you're focused on the game.

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Conclusion
Indigo Prophecy is a classic example of ambition outstripping reason. It is an interesting experience to say the least, and if you're not the type to care much about story then you may want to give it a try.  However, for a game that refers to itself as a movie, it fails miserably on the narrative front.  The fact that its gameplay aspects could stand to use a little spit and polish themselves doesn't help any.  From the looks of Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream appears to have learned their lesson, but after something like this it's hard to not be skeptical.  I am, however, hopeful.

 

Game Rated 7/10
 

 

 

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