Lucius Review: Murders That Make You Want to Kill Yourself
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Occasionally, my very intelligent but non-gamer fiancée will comment on how good I am at games, and how smart I must be because of this fact as she watches me intuit a convoluted solution to a complex in-game problem. I’m always quick to offer a humble interjection — being good at solving video game puzzles does not make one smart, because games often operate on something I like to call “video game logic.”
Spend any length of time solving video game puzzles and you’re bound to look intelligent to an outsider, but the truth is not that you’re especially smart, it’s just that you’re experienced with video games. You learn to think like developers — the kinds of people who rarely put in two paths unless the seemingly useless one contains a hidden item, or add a waterfall to a level unless you can slip behind it.
If you’ve solved a few old-school Resident Evil puzzles in your day, you understand video game logic; you learn to look for the single object with which you can interact in an environment and which is undoubtedly the solution to some puzzle, somewhere, no matter how strange or esoteric it may be. Then, when you’re right, you look like you’re crazy smart, but really, you just remembered an obscure bit of information and matched the square peg to the square hole. Figuring out a puzzle when you can only interact with two things in a room is not a sign of great intelligence, no matter how obscure the solution may seem.
Video game logic, thankfully, has been a tool slowly falling out of general use as games become more complex and well-made, but it’s back in force in the indie title Lucius. The rampant use of esoteric puzzles, some of which are so seemingly random as to be nigh unsolvable, makes for a game filled with thinly veiled tests of whether you can guess what the developer who created the scenario was thinking at the time. It’s an incredibly infuriating enterprise, one from which you gain nothing. It’s never, ever fun.
I don’t say this lightly: I hated every second of Lucius.
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Shiver Games
Publisher: Lace Mamba Digital
Released: Oct. 26, 2012
Oh, and how many seconds there were.
Lucius is essentially the film The Omen turned into a video game, with players taking on the role of
Damien Lucius, the son of the devil. On his sixth birthday, Lucius is visited by Lucifer and told he needs to start offing the many folks who live and work in Dante Manor, the home of his wealthy family. He starts by locking a maid in a freezer, then hiding the padlock he used to do it when the cops show up.
Each level, or chapter, of Lucius is predicated on another murder. In order to complete it, Lucius has a few tools in hand — first, whatever items he picks up around the house, and second, his notebook, in which clues and objectives are written, journal-style.
The murders play out like this: Lucius identifies the target, and then in the notebook are written some clues about them, like what they’re up to in particular that day. Lucius can then interact with them, see what they’re doing, or interact with other characters. Most of the time, it’s up to you to divine what the game wants from you, because despite the impression the game would love to give you, you don’t get to set up these catastrophic accidents for these people like a series of Rube Goldberg, Final Destination events. Instead, each murder is a specific puzzle you have to solve, placing the correct elements in their places not unlike an adventure title, until the game pats you on the head and tells you that you’ve done what it wanted.