Lamplight City
Grundislav Games
a First Look by venus
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Set in an alternate Victorian steampunk world in 1844, Lamplight City radiates atmosphere and intrigue. It takes place in a port city called New Bretagne, a place rife with crime and various prejudices. Starting with a “prologue” of sorts, we begin with our protagonist, detective Miles Fordham and his partner, Bill Ledger, investigating an odd theft that occurred in a flower shop in Cholmondeley (which the characters refer to as “The Chum.”) The “thief” is very considerate, as after each break in, money is found in payment for the stolen flowers. After some investigating, the events take an unexpectedly dark turn, and Miles is forced to make a difficult decision.

Fast forward three months later, and Miles has the ghost of his dead partner in his head. Is Bill’s ghost actually speaking to him? Or is Miles just losing his mind? Regardless, Bill is still very helpful to Miles on his next case. He also has an opinion on various objects in any given area as well as how he feels Miles is handling his life at the moment. Bill’s primary objective, however, is to find closure on the circumstances surrounding his death. Once he has achieved this, he will presumably leave Miles in peace.

After leaving his room, Miles speaks with his wife, who directs Miles to a note on the table. His boss has a case for him, the first of the five that will appear in the game. It took me about 3 hours to complete (plus around half an hour for the prologue), so this should be a good sized game, if every case is around the same length.

Most of the puzzles are based on the conversations Miles will have with the various characters. Many aspects of the game reminded me a lot of Gabriel Knight mixed with a little bit of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. When speaking to each character in depth, a close up of Miles and the character he is speaking to will appear surrounded by a black background very reminiscent of Gabriel Knight: The Sins of the Fathers. There are even a couple of scenes that reminded me of GK1, such as the coffee shop which looked quite a bit like the Napoleon House, and the angel on the stone plinth inside a mausoleum, which was similar to the angel outside Malia Gedde’s tomb. The Casebook Miles writes in at various points throughout the game was similar to the notes kept in Sherlock Holmes, with different sections on clues, suspects, etc.

Also, as in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, you will have the opportunity to accuse different suspects. In the first case, there were only two people that could be accused, with a variation on one of the two. I didn’t find the “correct” decision very difficult to figure out, so I wonder if in the following cases, it will become more difficult. Apparently, it is possible to fail every case and have the game continue regardless, so it will be interesting to see how this mechanic will be handled in the full game.

So far, the story and characters are strong. I found most of the cast likable/interesting. Various complex social issues are addressed and handled very well. Looking forward to seeing more of this in the full game. Voice acting is great, and I recognized a few voices from some of Wadjet Eye’s games. The pixel art graphics are very beautiful and atmospheric. Also, the animations are impressive, including some flickering lamps (appropriately enough) and swaying tree limbs, not to mention the various actions Miles performs.

The puzzles are all investigation based, mostly focused on dialogue with various characters. It is possible to anger a character so much that you are unable to speak with that particular character again. I saved my game at one point when I knew I could potentially anger a character and was thrown out of this character’s home. However, when I reloaded so I could continue to speak with the character, it turned out I had gotten everything I needed in that location. It makes me wonder if some of the same characters will appear in future cases. I was never stuck on any of the puzzles for very long. A certain puzzle involving a bird was very clever and had me stumped for a minute until I realized what it was trying to draw my attention to. There is no inventory in the game. If an object is picked up, Miles will automatically use it where it belongs when this spot is clicked on. It was a bit strange for me at first, as I kept moving my mouse up and down looking for an inventory, but I quickly got used to it. It makes sense that the puzzles are all in the realm of investigation rather than inventory based, and I think it works in the game’s favor.

Overall, Lamplight City is off to a very strong start. I highly recommend fans of story based and/or investigative adventure games give this one a look. I’m looking forward to seeing where the rest of the game goes in September.