Lucidity

How’s this for a quaint tableau: a crackling woodstove, an old woman knitting in a rocking chair, and a young girl named Sofi fantasizing about all the terrific adventures she’ll have as soon as she can get away from this old woman, this small house, and this woodstove.

Sofi dozes. When she wakes up, the old woman is gone, and a firefly thing comes out of the woodstove and leads her out of the house into a Tim Burton-esque version of a Mario side-scroller. The difference: You don’t control Sofi as you would in a traditional platformer. She moves of her own volition, cheerfully skipping forward, apparently blind to hazards like bottomless pits and glowing blobs that cause her to die.

The point of the game is to build a safe path through the levels for Sofi. This is accomplished by placing various objects in front of her. If there’s a pit ahead, you can drop a simple platform over it so she can cross to safety. If there’s a barrier, you can give her a set of stairs to climb. Objects include bombs that can clear away debris, fans that blow Sofi skyward, and a spring-like object that can cause her to bound forward, all of which can ostensibly be combined to design Sofi’s salvation. Objects are generated randomly à la Tetris. New objects are foreshadowed in a box labeled “next” at the top of the screen. The subtext: You’re supposed to care for Sofi in a hostile world.

The game’s early levels are charming and easy to complete. Later levels, however, are cruel and unusual and don’t require improvisation and self-expression so much as trial, error, and luck.

The game’s promise and potential, every bit of it, unravels around level eight or nine. All the seemingly charming touches, like the postcards from the old woman and the isn’t-it-all-just-magic soundtrack, are designed to make you feel that more is going on here, that the game is more interesting than it actually is. But in the end, Lucidity reveals itself to be latest in a long line of twee, overly quiet games that, like the overrated Flower, desperately ache to be artful. 

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