Match-3 games come in various forms these days, arriving on the market more frequently than ever before; especially since the boom experienced by the genre courtesy of the Candy Crush phenomenon. Metropolis: Lux Obscura is that latest game attempting to innovate the matching fun by introducing a film noir atmosphere and a non-linear plot. Is it an addictive and enthralling puzzler, or is it as rotten as the city of Metropolis?
One thing’s for sure: this certainly isn’t a family friendly offering like the aforementioned Candy Crush!
Jon Lockhart has spent many years imprisoned for the murder of an old friend and now he’s walking out of prison as a free man. Returning to the crime-ridden, scumbag filled city of Metropolis – it makes Gotham look like paradise – his aim appears to be to try and figure out who framed him for the murder and to make them pay in the bloodiest way possible. It’s time to flush out the rats and let the fists do the talking.
An overview of the city works as the main hub and from here you can decide which locations to traverse to, in order to progress. Sometimes there is more than one option to choose from and this can slightly alter the path you follow; whether that’s a visit to a strip club, the docks or to meet with the local mob boss, Falcone. The map is very easy to navigate and it’s intriguing as to the alternate outcomes you can achieve with alternate decisions. Along the way you’ll encounter the likes of naked women, small time crooks and jacked up door men, some of which will lead to a scuffle. That’s where the gameplay kicks in.
For every tussle, it’ll resort to a match-3 playfield for you to beat the hell out of anyone foolish enough to try and fight. There are multiple tokens in play and the requirement is to match three or more by moving one per turn, either horizontally or vertically within the row and column it’s positioned; with the greater the size of the match reaping the bigger effects. After the stated amount of turns, the opponent will do damage to you and whoever runs out of health first, loses. Fist tokens do the bare minimum damage, but there are also brass knuckles, boots, poison and electric shocks to bring the pain. To enhance the damage done further, matching rage tokens will increase the damage multiplier. First aid kit tokens can grant extra health if matched, whilst police tokens cause self harm and are to be avoided.
That setup in itself, as a concept, doesn’t break any boundaries, however the addition of upgradeable mental disorders and bad habits is, strangely, a welcome one. Effectively these are psychotic traits which can increase your rage meter max level, help rid the battle board of police, up the damage caused by specific actions and garner extra health points, to name just a handful of the benefits. The choices on offer after each fight are random, but selecting the right ones each to suit your matching style can really help in successes as the battles can be tough.
Dying is absolutely possible, needing a reload to the last auto-save point. Albeit slightly luck based, overcoming the odds and taking down enemies far stronger than yourself is hugely addictive and really good fun. Unfortunately, by the time you’ve improved Mr. Lockhart’s skills to an acceptable level, you’re at the end of the game. As a result, I’ve played through it a few times now, just to try different upgrades and unleash my fury on the scumbags in Metropolis. The developers left me wanting more matching goodness, additional baddies and more depth.
Story-wise, and there’s a bare bones structure here that, if expanded upon, could tell a really interesting story of seedy characters and the redemption of Lockhart. Sadly, with the entire experience only lasting around an hour and a half, every conversation seems crammed in and lines of dialogue sometimes make little sense in relation to those that have come before it. The general backgrounds of the characters are skimmed over and the lack of time to develop a connection with anyone – even the protagonist – really hinders the player’s investment in the narrative. And that’s a real shame because any one of the four different endings could’ve been wonderfully dark climaxes with the right build up.
The visuals are decent though as the whole narrative is conveyed in a motion comic, with an art style similar in many ways to Sin City. Anything actually shown in colour really stands out amongst the darkness. In the sound department, the voiceovers lend themselves well to the visual representation of the characters and the general atmosphere created in tandem with the artwork suits the grim nature of the tale.
Metropolis: Lux Obscura kicks ass with its match-3 puzzling exploits and I never felt the boredom creep in once. Sure, it’s not as advanced as something like Ironcast, but it’s still addictive nonetheless. The whole game is oozing with style, there’s no doubt about that. Disappointingly, it tries to mask the lack of substance to the story and characters with breasts, an abundance of swear words – some that really are not needed – and adult scenes. In total, you can be done with Metropolis in 90 minutes and left without a care about what’s gone in.
I can’t be too critical of Metropolis: Lux Obscura as the price point is only just over a fiver, but I’d rather pay more and get a better developed story, more of the enjoyable gameplay and an extended experience. Give it a go if you like match-3, not if you’re only interested in the story.