It’s probably the second choice.
As a fan of DS Adventure games, I was eagerly awaiting Lux Pain before it launched. I couldn’t make sense of the screenshots released, which was actually an awesome feeling. After playing the game, I’m still not completely sure I understood what was going on. Lux Pain tells the story of a boy named Atsuki Saijo, a recruit of an organization called FORT, who is undercover as a high school student. He’s granted the power to see into peoples minds, and read their thoughts. Basic stuff right?
Well not really. It seems everyone’s brain has a lot to say. You’ll find yourself activating ‘Σ’ (your way into their thoughts or Shinen) at seemingly unimportant statements. This wouldn’t be a problem, if these thoughts were presented in a less grandiose fashion. Each time you delve into another characters mind, you get an intro animation, followed by the main gameplay aspect of Lux Pain: Scratching. Yes, you’ll find your interactive novel is interspersed with lottery scratch off’s between your pages of text. Upon finding the yellow worm thing which represents a line of thought hidden under the scratch-off, you are treated to slowly animated text representing the characters thought. It’s interesting at first, but after the first few instances it gets quite annoying. Oh, and the score page telling me that I scratched 100 points again this time feels completely un-needed. Then there are the boss fights. Sometimes someone’s thoughts are so evil, the ideas manifest themselves into dinosaurs, to which you have to use creative ways of destroying glowing white pimples (sometimes covered in glass you need to break through) in order to inflict damage upon these foes. After you’ve defeated said dino’s, and click past the score screen, the people usually spit back a blasé statement before casually strolling away. I doubt this actually happens in Japan, and it felt pretty out of place to me.
Looking past that, the overall plot is interesting enough to stick with it. Topics like group suicide, and serial killer teachers, help to space out the typical high school drama. The character names are a little hard for me to get past though. I’ve never really watched anime, and am not up to date with my understanding of Japanese culture, which proves difficult for understanding the story the game is trying to tell at times. Differentiating Rui Yamase, and Ryo Unami proved hard for my mind to process early on (which is not a good thing as they have different genders). The cultural issues made me feel a bit uncomfortable too. When the younger sister of a character (elementary school age) is asking you (17 years old) out on a date, I don’t expect the answer to be yes.
Occasionally the game is voice acted, in some of the more important scenes, but the voices are usually translated better than the text. It’s fairly obvious that the translation attempt was not given as much attention as other titles, especially when in certain instances a female character will be referred to as ‘he’. It’s never to the point where you can figure out what’s being said, but it is fairly noticeable.
Despite all of these problems I have with it, I stuck with it. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and the ‘gameplay’ did get a bit tiring, but the story was strange enough to keep me interested. It wouldn’t be a hard transition for fans of the Phoenix Wright games, but if you’re new to the genre of interactive novels there are better offerings to start out with. The game is long enough to keep you busy, if you’re looking to kill some time as we head into the summer. Nothing says ‘it’s summertime‘ like scratching someones ideas out of their head!
Lux Pain is available now for Nintendo DS.