LucasArts – Lucidity review

puzzle platformer with a lucid dream theme
Photo of LucasArts – Lucidity

We all dream, and some pretty weird stuff at times. One of this reviewer’s most vivid childhood nightmares was about boxes. Yes, boxes; we know… It wasn’t the boxes that were the point though. We were moving them from one side of a massive room to the other, at first just one box, then two, four, eight, and doubling up as we went along.

As anyone who has tried that before knows, those small numbers get very large quite quickly, and before long our slumbering mind was attempting to comprehend astronomical piles of digits. You know, bank bail-out sort of figures. It was as if we’d attempted to look into the mouth of infinity – stared into the abyss outside creation – and believe us it was quite the strangest and most scary dream we’ve ever had. Apart from that one with the elves and the butter.

Lucidity is also about odd dreams. A little girl called Sofi falls asleep and finds herself in a surreal and dark world, backed by haunting piano melodies and melancholic Radiohead-esque guitar strumming. The graphics are simple but tastefully bleak, but more ominous than the spooky ambience are the monstrous denizens of this land, the spike-filled pits and the bottomless swamps.

In this puzzle platformer the player has no direct control over Sofi. She stumbles on at a steady pace and it’s up to you to place platforms to keep her safe from the various holes and hazards across the landscape. You simply move a platform piece and tap the A button to place it, with the next piece coming displayed at the top of the screen so it’s possible to plan ahead, à la Tetris.

Not only are there straightforward platforms, but also staircases, trampolines, fans which blow Sofi into the air, slingshots that hurl her across the screen and more. A further twist is that you can always save one piece for later deployment, and that’s often the bomb, the prized explosive device which can be used to blow holes in walls or take out beasties.

The general idea is to think quickly and combine pieces to good effect. So you might place a slingshot, then a platform where you think Sofi will land, and stairs at the end of that linking up to one of the existing platforms which is laden with fireflies. The fireflies are Sofi’s equivalent of Sonic‘s rings, and she must collect as many as possible.

Often, however, you don’t have time to do any planning as Sofi plummets towards a lava pit and you desperately try to react quickly, placing fans under her and basically spamming pieces out in an attempt to juggle her across thin air. It’s frantic, it’s tough, but very rewarding when you get it right and manage to bounce her deftly through some sort of tight situation.

The trouble is Lucidity can sometimes make this necessarily speedy placement of pieces overly difficult. Moving pieces using the analogue stick is a bit sluggish and often you’ll not get a piece in quite the right position: if it overlaps with the landscape, it can’t be laid down. Couple this with the fact that you can’t look far down (the camera is locked on Sofi) to see whether death or safe ground is beneath you, and there are some considerable moments of near-joypad-hurling.

Lucidity gets pretty hard quite swiftly, too. Even a third of the way through, the game starts to put the squeeze on, with nastier monsters turning up and intimidating levels with some tricky vertical heights to reach. It’s even tougher when the pieces don’t fall your way, and as with Tetris you’re waiting for that straight four-piece, but it just isn’t coming…

It’s generally not even possible to collect all the fireflies on any given level in one run, but you can go back and play the levels again to grab them all. However, we didn’t feel the urge to keep playing them over, as it was taxing enough merely to make it across the screen by the game’s third act.

There’s definitely something here, though. Between the eerie ambience, Sofi’s rather touching comments between levels and the exhilaration of traversing a tricky spot and getting it just right, Lucidity definitely has its moments.

Company: LucasArts

Lucidity is a haunting bundle of platform-based conundrums which definitely makes an impression with its alluring aesthetic design and melancholic score. However, the experience of playing it varies between exhilaration and annoyance. The latter tends to creep in as you're forced to attempt difficult levels over and over again due to bad luck and/or the slightly finicky controls. At this price, however, we're not going to complain too much.