In the wake of the sad news coming from Telltale Games — one of my favourite game studios that always put me through the roller coaster of emotions — I couldn’t have come across this game at a more perfect time. Much like a Telltale game with diverging narratives, Lamplight City is a steampunk detective “point and click” where each case comes with multiple endings and suspects which will affect your story. Depending on the type of gamer you are, that can be the biggest selling point or it can drive you slowly insane.
This… is Lamplight City
The game starts off with a fairly mundane case to teach you the mechanics and get a feel for the characters. Then all of a sudden takes a dark and dramatic turn that sets the tone for the rest of the story. Until that moment I was playing for the sake of the review, but after, I was invested and wanted to see it through to the end. After that, the game is relatively short and only has five core cases in the story — taking anywhere from one to three hours per case depending on how thorough you want to be. BE THOROUGH! It was only during the second case that I realized the first person you can accuse isn’t always the culprit. The interactions you have with characters and who you ultimately accuse are not isolated to that case either, but carry forward into the rest of the game and can impede your investigations later on as well. To the point where dialogue options are removed and entire areas to explore are either there or not — multiple playthroughs are a must. Needless to say, after making some poor decisions in case one, my game slowly spiralled out of control and I am fairly certain I was unable to catch the true guilty party in any moment for the rest of the game. While in the moment this was absolutely infuriating, it also achieved what the developers presumably intended. In the back of my mind, I just kept thinking, “I need to play again! I need to start again and fix this! I must have the true ending!”
While Lamplight City is fairly short, the mechanic and narrative style it adopts gives it lots of replayability. I also thoroughly enjoyed the city of New Bretagne and the steampunk fantasy world that Grundislav Games created. The visual style of the game was a bit of a contradiction; the background was a beautiful painted environment that was a treat to look at, while all the characters were rather pixelated and 8bit-esque. I would have loved to see a different approach to the characters and movable elements of the environment, but it wasn’t so jarring as to pull me out of the story. The voice acting was pretty solid 90% of the time as well, with one glaring exception in the form of the main character’s wife. Any time she had to show emotion was fairly leaden and cringe-worthy.
As far as the actual investigating and clue-finding went, I will be honest and say I had to cave once or twice and consult the all-powerful Google. These are definitely not easy and linear cases, and the game makes you use your brain. Most of the time I loved it, but there were a few moments where I was just ready to throw something because I was certain I had talked to every possible person and clicked on every possible object! This game heavily rewards patience and being thorough, so if you are a speedrunner this is not the game for you.
Music finds your emotions
Another huge component of game design for me is the sound design. I am a bit of a sound snob as I work in theatre production and design and have been a sound designer myself. I also have taken music lessons on various instruments since I was a small child. But beyond that, music is key to getting the emotions out the developer is aiming for. I can go from dead inside to a sobbing mess with the right piece of music. All my favourite games span across a range of genres and decades, one thing they always have in common is memorable, beautiful, and stirring soundtracks and impeccable sound design when it comes to creating atmosphere. The music in this game was pretty pleasant most of the time, occasionally I could get my head out of the case to enjoy it. It was very atmospheric and was well suited to the various moments in the story. However, it is by no means iconic and I won’t be listening to it outside of the game itself.
Overall, I enjoyed Lamplight City a lot more than I thought I would, not usually being a fan of point and click games with their over-elaborate puzzles and lack of logical puzzle solving. If you are looking for a game that challenges your brain, tells a good story, and tickles that steampunk aesthetic many of us enjoy, then this is a great game for you. However, if you are easily impatient, and want to get everything right on the first try, then this game will definitely push your buttons.
Note: This game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
- Multiple endings promote replayability
- Beautiful environments
- Relationships don’t stop after a case ends
- Enjoyable but forgettable music
- A few of the cases were a little obtuse